UPDATED with closing stock price. Tesla founder Elon Musk has acquired 73.5 million shares in Twitter, or 9.2% of the company, sending its shares up 27% for the day but prompting uneasiness about his intentions.
An SEC filing this morning listed the date of the $2.9 billion purchase as March 14. It isn’t yet clear what motivated the billionaire to become Twitter’s largest shareholder. Last December, he posted a meme about the company’s recent management transition, drawing a parallel with the Stalin-era Soviet Union, and he has raised questions about free speech on social media. Founder and two-time CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down unexpectedly last November, handing the baton to longtime exec Parag Agrawal.
“Elon has his eyes laser set on Twitter,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives wrote in a note to clients, alluding to the glowing-eyes touch-up given to online photos of cryptocurrency zealots like Musk. “We would expect this passive stake as just the start of broader conversations with the Twitter board/management that could ultimately lead to an active stake and a potential more aggressive ownership role of Twitter.”
Shares in Twitter closed at $49.97, their highest level since last November. Trading volume was more than 10 times the stock’s daily average.
The issue of content moderation and restrictions, which has vexed Twitter and other social media companies in recent years, appears to be a consideration for Musk. He recently polled his 80 million Twitter followers, asking them if they thought the company supported free speech. More than 70% responded negatively, leading Musk to muse about starting his own platform.
With Agrawal in charge, investors are watching closely to see if the company can meet its ambitious growth targets. Twitter has projected it will reach $7.5 billion in annual revenue and 315 million daily users by the end of 2023. Agrawal has also promised to improve product execution, increase accountability, make decisions faster.
Musk, who also runs SpaceX, has a net worth in the area of $270 billion. Last year, he surpassed Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos to become the world’s richest person.