Elon Musk has completed his takeover of Twitter, and wasted little time before firing a number of the company’s top executives, including the chief executive.
The billionaire appeared to confirm media reports of his takeover, tweeting shortly before 5am UK time on Friday: “The bird is freed.”
A US court had set a deadline of Friday for the Tesla and SpaceX boss to complete his $44bn (£38bn) acquisition of the platform.
Several senior figures and board members at Twitter, including Bret Taylor, who had served as the company’s chairman, have changed their social media profiles to reflect that they no longer work for the company.
According to reports, Mr Musk’s first act upon taking charge was to dismiss chief executive Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, and general counsel and head of safety, Vijaya Gadde.
Mr Musk had publicly criticised both Mr Agrawal and Ms Gadde over Twitter policy in the months leading up to the takeover, particularly what he believes is its policing of “free speech”.
Twitter was founded by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams in 2006.
It started out as a private company, with Mr Dorsey as the chief executive, before going public in 2013.
On 25 April the Twitter board of directors agreed to a $44bn buyout by Mr Musk, making it one of the biggest deals to turn a company private in history.
Before Mr Musk’s takeover the company was owned largely by institutional investors, with the Vanguard Group the biggest stakeholder at 10.3 per cent. Mr Musk himself held a 9.2 per cent stake.
Morgan Stanley Investment Management held 8.4 per cent, while fellow investment firms BlackRock and StateStreet each held 4.75 per cent.
Mr Dorsey owned 2.5 per cent of the company, while other board members held stakes worth millions.
Mr Agrawal owned around 128,000 shares, worth about $7m under Mr Musk’s deal. Mr Segal’s 394,000 shares are worth $21m, and Ms Gadde had 600,000 shares worth $32m.
The company’s 7,000 employees have also been able to purchase discounted shares since it Twitter went public.
Mr Dorsey resigned as CEO in November 2021, being replaced by Mr Agrawal, and left his spot on the board in May this year.
On Thursday, Mr Musk posted a statement aimed at Twitter’s advertisers, in which he said he was acquiring the platform because he believed it was important to have a space where “a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner”.
That came after he posted a bizarre video of himself entering Twitter’s headquarters on Wednesday carrying a sink, alongside the message “Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in”.
He has also updated his bio on the social media platform to “Chief Twit” in a further nod to the deal being completed.
Mr Musk is said to have told staff during his visit to the head office on Wednesday that it was not true that he was planning on cutting up to 75 per cent of staff.
It had previously been reported that Mr Musk told investors he planned to fire around three-quarters of the firm’s 7,500 employees.
Staff, Twitter users and industry experts are waiting to see what plans he has for the platform.
He has previously spoken of his belief in “absolute free speech” and suggested he would allow previously suspended and often controversial figures, including former US president Donald Trump, to return, which has alarmed online safety campaigners.
There have been reports that many staff plan to leave the company once the takeover is completed, and some security campaigners have warned that Twitter could become an easy target for hackers in the aftermath of the deal.
Despite this internal confusion and low morale tied to fears of lay-offs or a dismantling of the company’s culture and operations, Twitter leaders this week have at least outwardly welcomed Mr Musk’s arrival and messaging.
The billionaire has been pictured meeting with staff over several days at its San Francisco HQ.
As part of his plans for the site, Mr Musk has also spoken of removing all spam and bot accounts and using Twitter as part of a so-called “everything app” called X, where users are able to access a wide range of services in one place.
That is similar to WeChat in China, where users are able to access social media, online shopping and money transfer, taxi hire, restaurant booking and more from within one app.