ETwitter is in a very similar position for most of the 20th century. A company is in a difficult situation and must consider selling. Twitter was open to receiving offers from Yahoo and Facebook during the 2000s. A few years later came a Google outreach and in 2016, a Disney offer. Facebook’s $500 million proposition probably It stands out most because it is the most thoughtful of all the companies, and arrived at the same time as Jack Dorsey, the CEO, had just left (sound familiar? Questions arose about the possibility that the company would live up its economic potential.
“All of the acquisition events for Twitter have always been around other board drama or changes in CEO leadership, like, you know, the one that’s happening now,” recalls Jason Goldman, a founding executive at Twitter. He spent almost a decade on Twitter’s board and was there for the Yahoo, Facebook and Google bids. “Twitter has the kind of cultural resonance that much larger companies wish they had, a bigger cultural footprint than the size of the business suggests,” Goldman says.
Today, Twitter’s back in trouble, and maybe it’s time to add another would-be suitor to the list, like say, Microsoft or SalesForce. Let me explain: Twitter right now has an untested new CEO, Parag Agrawal, trying to make the business grow—to mend that gap between commercial potential and cultural significance. He’s contending with the advances of the world’s richest person, Elon Musk. Musk is willing to buy Twitter for $54.20/share, which represents a slight premium over what the stock traded in recent trading, and a valuation of $43 Billion. (It is delivered in classic Musk fashion: “420” at the end of his share-price figure is a deliberate reference to April 20, a day marijuana enthusiasts view as a holiday.) In making his overture, Musk expressed skepticism about the company’s current management. He said he wanted Twitter to be “the platform for free speech around the globe” and added: “I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
Although Twitter may not be keen to offer the deal to Musk, it might soon run out of options to defend him. And if Musk doesn’t complete the deal, he may have unintentionally opened the door for other acquisitive parties to wander in and launch their own bids.
Twitter doesn’t have the protection offered by the dual-share classes that Meta, Snap and Alphabet have, which prevent raiders showing up on a corporate doorstep. Twitter could adopt a poison pill strategy, selling stock at a discount to dilute Musk’s stake. In doing so, Agrawal might walk away with control of Twitter, but it’s unclear how much of Twitter might be left after such a share sale puts a dent in the company’s market value.
To escape from Musk, Twitter may need what’s called a white knight in the buyout game, a well-capitalized suitor it can live with more easily than the mercurial electric-car mogul. The most famous example of such a strategy was Warren Buffett’s 1989 saving of Gillette, when he bought $600 million of preferred stock to end a hostile takeover attempt by Coniston Partners.
Buffett’s not coming into play with Twitter. In fact, when you consider who might be able to ride to the rescue for the social media platform, it’s a pretty short list. Consider past suitors. Facebook/Meta is likely out because it’s the subject of an ongoing antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. Google faces a Justice Department review. Yahoo? Most likely. Disney certainly has the money and likely wouldn’t encounter much flack from regulators. Bob Iger is no longer the Disney CEO and has nothing to write about his thoughts about Twitter buying in 2019.
“Twitter was a potentially powerful platform for us, but I couldn’t get past the challenges that would come with it,” Iger writes. “They included how to manage hate speech, and making fraught decisions regarding freedom of speech…and the general rage and lack of civility.” (Many of those problems still plague Twitter today.)
So who could bail out Twitter? Here’s the thinking from Wall Street: Salesforce could afford it and co-CEO Marc Benioff once gave purchasing Twitter serious consideration before changing his mind. Salesforce’s other co-CEO, Bret Taylor, is certainly familiar with Twitter. He’s actually the chairman of Twitter’s board. But it’s unclear whether that would make Salesforce more or less likely to pursue Twitter.
After chasing and then abandoning a deal worth $45 billion for Pinterest, PayPal has emerged as a serious contender. Though the PayPal-Pinterest tie-up made more sense when you thought about Pinterest less as a social network than a social shopping site—with PayPal having plenty of insight about checkout transactions.
Wall Street sources suggest that Microsoft is another potential contender. According to Wall Street sources, the company did not comment on whether or not it was looking into Musk-Twitter. However, the company has indicated a willingness to purchase a social network company recently. Although it was eager to acquire TikTok for roughly $50 billion, the Trump administration intervened and halted its efforts. Moreover, Microsoft’s $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn has already proven it can turn a quixotic social network into a money machine. According to Statista (a data analytics company), LinkedIn’s revenues have risen from $2 billion to $8 billion when Microsoft bought it in 2016, to more than $9 billion today.
“Microsoft has added a tremendous amount of value to Linkedin,” says Brent Thill, an analyst at Jefferies. “And if you think about it, Microsoft would add professionalism. trust and respect.” True enough: a Microsoft offer probably wouldn’t come partly framed as a reference to weed culture, which, oddly enough, counts as only the latest strange development in Twitter’s tortured history with trying to sell itself.