Tesla’s flamboyant chief executive, Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, is now Twitter’s single largest shareholder. His roughly $3-bilion stake was disclosed Monday in a regulatory filing.
Which raises the question: Why?
Musk certainly enjoys the platform. He tweets frequently to his more than 80 million followers, and has more than once gotten into legal trouble for his online pronouncements.
In recent days, he’s also mused online about the possibility of setting up his own social network.
So what does he gain from purchasing almost 10% of Twitter?
In a word: Clout.
“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,” commented Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
Musk has suggested recently that he feels Twitter doesn’t adhere to free speech — echoing conservative complaints that Twitter isn’t representative of all viewpoints.
(Former President Donald Trump was booted off the platform for his own utterances, prompting him to establish his own, conservative-focused platform, Truth Social.)
As Twitter’s largest shareholder, Musk would now be within his rights to seek a seat on the company’s board, which would give him influence over Twitter’s operations and direction.
He also could push behind the scenes for Twitter to change the algorithms that determine what people see in their feeds.
It’s possible Musk has decided it’s easier to buy a major stake in Twitter rather than follow Trump’s example and try to reinvent the wheel.
If so, he may seek to rejigger the platform more in his image — freewheeling, provocative, not always trustworthy.
For the time being, he says, he’ll be a passive investor, meaning that he doesn’t intend to take control of Twitter. But that could change.
With a net worth of $273 billion, Musk has money to burn on side projects such as this. And there’s nothing to stop him from buying more shares.
Musk became even richer today. Twitter’s stock surged by about 30% after his investment was announced.