Elon Musk Twitter takeover: Musk sends in Tesla crew and eyes changes


SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter employees waited anxiously Friday for the next shoe to drop as the reality of Elon Musk’s ownership set in among its thousands of staffers.

In offices in San Francisco and New York, and on company slacks, they searched fruitlessly for news of who might be fired, how their jobs would change under Musk and any official confirmation that the Tesla CEO had actually bought the company, according to interviews with employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

The company’s remaining senior leaders — four had already been unceremoniously fired the previous night — huddled privately in offices with Musk’s team and didn’t emerge, the people said. Inside Twitter, in a highly unusual arrangement, engineers from Musk-led Tesla were examining the company’s code as the tech executive sought the input of his technical experts he trusted. Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro was directing some aspects of the transition.

Musk’s new ownership is expected to bring sweeping changes to the social media company, which has long been regarded as an underperformer in Silicon Valley. Musk broke with the previous management over basic matters such as how to police speech online. He is expected to ease its content moderation efforts, though he said Friday that his team had not yet made changes to those policies at Twitter.

But nowhere inside the company is the uncertainty as evident as around potential staff cuts and changes, as workers have waited for weeks to learn if they might still have a role at Twitter following the acquisition.

Musk has a reputation as a fierce manager who demands the most out of his employees, quick to replace those who underperform and even subjecting some to “rage firings.” But he is also revered in his field, with a unique ability to attract talent to his companies as they embark on missions regarded as world-changing.

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Twitter and Musk did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Musk acquired Twitter on Thursday after a months-long dispute in which he took a stake in the company, accepted — then rejected — a board seat and finally struck a deal to buy the site for $44 billion. Musk then backed out of the deal in July, citing issues with Twitter’s representations on spam and bots during a period of mounting economic concern, and Twitter sued him for breach of contract. Rather than face a heated court battle to trial, Musk acquiesced, renewing his offer to buy the site and finally emerging as its owner this week.

The Washington Post reported last week that Musk told investors he planned to lay off nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s staff of 7,500. As he toured Twitter’s offices and met with staff Wednesday, he said he had no plans to do so, people with knowledge of his conversations said.

Employees were worried about what his leadership would portend, but on Wednesday, some seemed cautiously optimistic as Musk visited Twitter’s offices and held meetings with its staff.

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On Friday, Musk stuck to Twitter to communicate with the outside world. There were still lingering questions, among the biggest: whether he would reinstate the account of former president Donald Trump, who he said he would bring back to the site after his permanent ban in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

He tweeted that Twitter is forming a “content moderation council” and said no decisions about takedowns of accounts would be made until then.

“No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes,” he wrote. That signaled banned accounts such as Trump’s would not be immediately restored. Musk also weighed in on the account of Ye, the rapper and fashion designer formerly known as Kanye West, whose account privileges were limited after he posted antisemitic remarks.

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“Ye’s account was restored by Twitter before the acquisition,” Musk wrote of the rapper, who he has counted as a friend. “They did not consult with or inform me.”

The post soon appeared with a user-submitted context label because Musk had appeared to misstate how Twitter had handled the matter. The label said the account was never suspended in the matter.

Internally, Musk is in the process of assessing the company and its talent, according to a person familiar with his plans for his initial days of ownership who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe the matter. He wants to scope out and maintain the best talent Twitter has to offer. But he has also deputized members of his team, including looking to his companies such as Tesla and SpaceX, to better understand the ins and outs of Twitter.

As part of that process, some engineers received a calendar invite Friday, telling them: “Stop printing, please be ready to show your recent code,” a reference to engineers being asked to show the code they had written in the last 30 to 60 days on their computers.

The note continues, “Please come prepared with code as a backup to review on your own machines with Elon.” Later, people inside the company reported that Tesla engineers were in fact reviewing the code.

One former Tesla engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe the matter but and was not involved, said Tesla engineers would have trouble capably assessing Twitter’s code. Distributed systems, the large-scale and spread-out network that Twitter is composed of comprises, are not the automaker’s specialty, the person said.

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The “idea of Elon being flanked by his Tesla engineers reviewing Twitter code is laughable,” the person said.

Musk on Thursday immediately fired CEO Parag Agrawal; Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal; Vijaya Gadde, head of legal, public policy, trust and safety; and general counsel Sean Edgett.

On Friday, Twitter employees worried about a similar fate, several told The Post.

Musk arrived at the company’s headquarters on Wednesday carrying a detached kitchen sink into the office, a message that his ownership should “sink in,” and hobnobbed with employees late into the day.

The company’s chief marketing officer had told employees there would be a Friday meeting with Musk, but it didn’t happen.

One of the Twitter employees said they were feeling “a creeping sense of cautious optimism,” as staffers hoped Musk’s plans to lay off staff were overblown. On the engineering side, some seemed excited to start shipping products that aligned with Musk’s vision, the person said.

The deadline for Musk to close the acquisition was Friday afternoon, so the deal wrapping up on Thursday came as a surprise to many employees. Some workers in the New York and San Francisco offices had dressed up for company Halloween parties and were in costume when media reported the deal closed.

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On Friday, some of Twitter’s workers were angry and confused.

“Absolute information vacuum here,” one person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. “It’s clearly chaos.”

Outside Twitter’s San Francisco offices, around 15 journalists and a handful of camera crews set up on Friday, waiting for Musk to appear or for laid-off employees to exit.

Early in the day, two men carrying boxes came out, claiming to be fired workers, but the company did not confirm any layoffs had happened and the men appeared to be pulling a prank.

Taylor Lorenz and Will Oremus contributed to this report.