Elon Musk tells Twitter’s employees he wants the service to ‘contribute to a better, long-lasting civilization.’

 

SAN FRANCISCO — For weeks, Elon Musk has publicly trashed Twitter, though he is shopping for the firm in a $44 billion deal. On Thursday, he lastly acted like an proprietor.

In an hourlong question-and-answer session in the morning with Twitter’s 8,000 or so employees — the first time Mr. Musk has spoken with them since he agreed to purchase the social media firm in April — the world’s richest man opened up about his plans for the service. In an effusive and at occasions rambling deal with, he touched on matters as different as progress, potential layoffs, anonymity, Chinese apps, the existence of alien life-forms and even the cosmic nature of Twitter.

“I would like Twitter to contribute to a higher, long-lasting civilization the place we higher perceive the nature of actuality,” Mr. Musk mentioned in the assembly, which was livestreamed to Twitter employees and which The New York Times listened to.

The 50-year-old added that he hoped the service might assist humankind “higher perceive the nature of the universe, as a lot as it’s doable to perceive.”

The assembly, which Mr. Musk participated in from his cellphone in what appeared to be a resort room, recommended that he was set on closing the blockbuster acquisition. His intentions had been unsure in latest weeks when the billionaire, who additionally runs the electrical carmaker Tesla and the rocket firm SpaceX, repeatedly raised questions on Twitter’s pretend accounts in an obvious pretext for doubtlessly ending or renegotiating the deal.

Since April, the famously mercurial Mr. Musk has tweeted that the buy was “on maintain” and accused Twitter of “actively resisting and thwarting” his rights. At one other level, he had criticized a few of the firm’s executives. He made his inflammatory feedback as international markets tumbled and shares of Tesla, that are his most important supply of wealth, plummeted.

The antics from Mr. Musk, who’s paying $54.20 a share to purchase Twitter, had left buyers, the firm’s employees and others guessing as to what he may do. Twitter’s inventory is now buying and selling round $37. Yet the firm has insisted that the deal stays on observe and that it has been sharing data with Mr. Musk, who’s on the hook for a breakup payment of $1 billion if he walks away.

Mr. Musk didn’t straight deal with on Thursday whether or not he would shut the take care of Twitter, however he made it clear to employees that he had grand ambitions.

During the dialog, which was moderated by Twitter’s chief advertising and marketing officer, Leslie Berland, Mr. Musk mentioned he hoped to broaden the service to a couple of billion customers throughout the world. That can be practically 4 occasions the variety of present customers. He added that he was hands-on at Tesla and anticipated to be so at Twitter.

Even with such a efficiency, some cautioned that Mr. Musk may nonetheless change his thoughts about finishing the deal for Twitter.

“I assume he’s working on two tracks,” mentioned Ann Lipton, a professor of company governance at Tulane Law School. “Maybe he wants to decrease the worth and even cancel the deal. If the deal goes by means of, he wants further buyers.”

She added: “Publicly speaking to Twitter employees, making an attempt to assuage their issues, possibly provides reassurances to potential buyers. But I’m not clear whether or not that’s his Plan B or his Plan A.”

Twitter declined to touch upon the assembly, and Mr. Musk didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Mr. Musk had been scheduled to converse to Twitter’s employees weeks in the past, however the session didn’t happen. Then over the previous week, the San Francisco-based firm started gathering questions for him from employees on its inner Slack messaging system. The assembly, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. San Francisco time, started a jiffy late, with Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief government, thanking Mr. Musk.

Then Mr. Musk began answering questions, together with about distant work. This month, he despatched memos to staff at Tesla and SpaceX saying he anticipated them to be in the workplace for 40 hours a week. Twitter’s employees have largely labored remotely in the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Musk advised Twitter employees that he was open to their working remotely, on condition that growing software program is totally different from displaying up each day to construct automobiles. But he mentioned a broad lack of in-office participation might contribute to a dwindling “esprit de corps” and hoped that individuals can be keen to go into the workplace extra in the future.

Mr. Musk dodged straight answering whether or not there can be layoffs at Twitter, although his reply was considerably ominous.

“Right now, prices exceed income,” he mentioned. “That’s not a nice state of affairs.”

At one other level, he digressed into a dialogue about whether or not extraterrestrial life was doable, although it was unclear the place he netted out. He additionally introduced up the Chinese apps WeChat and TikTok as aspirational, on condition that WeChat is so embedded in individuals’s each day lives in China and TikTok is “not boring.”

One enchancment that Mr. Musk mentioned he wished to make was including funds know-how to Twitter. Ideally, customers would have the opportunity to ship cash backwards and forwards by means of the service, comparable to how merchandise like Venmo or Square Cash function.

Mr. Musk, a longtime energy person of Twitter with greater than 98 million followers, has lengthy mentioned he believes the firm’s potential is underutilized. He has added that he hopes to rejuvenate the service outdoors the eye of the public markets by taking the firm non-public and making vital modifications to how Twitter operates.

Inside Twitter, some employees have had blended emotions about Mr. Musk. Some have mentioned they’re involved by his Twitter habits and murky politics.

On Thursday, employees at SpaceX circulated a memo saying that they have been additionally involved about their chief government’s public conduct — significantly how he acted on Twitter — and that it mirrored poorly on employees.

“Elon’s conduct in the public sphere is a frequent supply of distraction and embarrassment for us,” learn the letter, which was obtained by The Times and reported earlier by The Verge. “As our C.E.O. and most distinguished spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — each tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public assertion by the firm.”

Others at Twitter have mentioned they have been fearful by how Mr. Musk wants to take a laissez-faire strategy to policing the platform.

On Thursday, he emphasised that he wished to make Twitter as inclusive a platform as doable, principally by gaining extra customers, including that he wouldn’t enable felony acts to be carried out on the community. He mentioned that he additionally didn’t need to make individuals use their actual names on Twitter and that there was utility in utilizing pseudonyms to categorical political opinions on the service.

Some Twitter employees, who’ve pointed to Mr. Musk’s popularity as an innovator, mentioned they felt heartened after Thursday’s assembly. Mr. Musk was not hostile and appeared to have a imaginative and prescient for the product, regardless of not having the ability to enunciate it clearly at occasions, they mentioned. Others mentioned he had not addressed their questions, with one worker writing in an inner Slack message, which was considered by The Times, that “if you happen to took a drink every time he answered a query, you’d be painfully sober at the finish of this.”

Mr. Musk was noncommittal when requested if he deliberate to assume the chief government position at Twitter when he took over the firm. He mentioned he wasn’t a conventional C.E.O. and pointed to his title at Tesla, which is Technoking. But he additionally famous that he had many concepts for product updates and the way the service ought to evolve, and that he would make these recognized to others inside the firm.

“I do anticipate that they’ll hear to me on this regard,” Mr. Musk mentioned.

Ryan Mac and Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.


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