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Top Twitter executives fired as Elon Musk takeover begins

Oct. 27, 2022 Updated Thu., Oct. 27, 2022 at 8:10 p.m.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk gives interviews as he arrives at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 meeting in Stavanger, Norway, on Aug. 29.  (TRIBUNE NEWS TRIBUNE)
Tesla CEO Elon Musk gives interviews as he arrives at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 meeting in Stavanger, Norway, on Aug. 29. (TRIBUNE NEWS TRIBUNE)
By Faiz Siddiqui and Elizabeth Dwoskin Washington Post

SAN FRANCISCO – Elon Musk became Twitter’s owner late Thursday as his $44 billion deal to take over the company closed, marking a new era for one of the world’s most influential social media platforms.

As one of his first moves, he fired several top Twitter executives, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. One of those confirmed the deal had closed.

CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and Vijaya Gadde, head of legal policy, trust and safety, were all fired, according to the people. Sean Edgett, the company’s general counsel, was also pushed out, one of the people said. The executives were hastily shuttled from the building, the people said.

Musk’s moves late Thursday signal his intentions to put his stamp firmly on one of the world’s most influential social media companies. Musk has publicly criticized Twitter’s outgoing management over product decisions and content moderation, as well as saying he would restore former president Donald Trump’s account.

Still, “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” Musk tweeted Thursday.

The closure of the deal ended a months-long roller-coaster saga in which the billionaire – the world’s richest person – conducted a hostile takeover to buy the company at an inflated price, only to renege on the deal and then enter into a bitter legal battle with the social network.

But in recent days, Musk appeared resigned, and even enthusiastic, about his impending ownership. He showed up at the company’s offices unexpectedly on Wednesday, carrying a sink to suggest that the message that he would become owner needed to “sink in,” according to a photo he posted to his more than 100 million Twitter followers. He plans to hold a companywide town hall on Friday. Neither Twitter nor the executives responded immediately to a request for comment.

The moves place the heralded entrepreneur at the helm of one of the world’s most powerful communication platforms just days ahead of major elections in the U.S. and Brazil.

Musk, a transportation magnate who is also CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has offered some clues about what he would do when he took over Twitter – despite having no experience running a social media service.

He has suggested he wants to loosen standards for the policing of harmful content such as misinformation and hate speech. He has also decried so-called censorship by social media companies. He has criticized the company and supported online attacks against individual executives. He has told potential investors and partners that he wants to execute a financial turnaround of the company by firing nearly 75% of the workforce and leaning into new business opportunities, including having people subscribe to exclusive content from popular influencers on the service.

Musk represents a different kind of owner of a social media company from his predecessor, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, or his now-rival Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Over the course of his Twitter bid, he has at times styled himself a moderate, but also announced plans to vote for a Republican president in 2024. He has also weighed in on geopolitical conflicts between China and Taiwan and on the Ukraine war.

Inside Twitter, Musk’s arrival has been met with resentment and dismay – though Musk’s visit on Wednesday left some hopeful. Those hopes were quickly dashed with the firings of top executives, who had commanded the trust of existing staff.

The mood after Wednesday’s visit was “overall slightly more positive,” said one employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the company, adding, “Everyone’s ready to close this chapter and get to what comes next.”

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