Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal sought to project calm on Friday after another tumultuous day at the social media company. The culprit, as usual: Elon Musk, who had declared that morning that it temporarily suspended its $44 billion takeover bid while it examined the exact percentage of Twitter users made up of fake or spam accounts.
Musk then insisted he was “still committed” to the takeover, but investors were nonetheless confused, sending Twitter shares down 10% on Friday afternoon.
In typical Musk form, the billionaire circumvented corporate best practices by making statements via tweet, rather than submitting an official filing of credentials.
Later in the day, Agrawal also took the platform to defend his leadership and recent executive reshuffles. “While I expect the deal to be completed, we must be prepared for all scenarios and always do what is right for Twitter. I am responsible for the direction and operation of Twitter, and our job is to build a stronger Twitter every day,” he wrote.
He also explained why he fired two of the company’s top executives earlier this week, even though some onlookers might see him as a “lame CEO”.
“Regardless of future corporate ownership, here we are enhancing Twitter as a product and a business for customers, partners, shareholders and all of you,” he said. The company is largely freezing hiring to reduce overhead.
Agrawal, seemingly in contrast to Musk, added that “you won’t see any tweets from me about the ‘topic of the day’ or the loudest sound, but rather about the ongoing, ongoing and challenging work our teams are doing to improve the public conversation on Twitter.
Onlookers were initially skeptical of Musk’s decision to pause the takeover. Financial analyst Daniel Ives of Wedbush Securities called it a “bizarre tweet” that would send Twitter “into a Friday the 13th horror show.”
It was unclear why Musk had supposedly developed new concerns about Twitter’s spam count estimates, given how little due diligence he had done before making his bid last month.
Armen Hovakimian, a finance professor at Baruch College, said Musk’s motivations were hard to pinpoint. He speculated that the billionaire was either simply ‘being Musk’, looking to gain leverage and lower the buyout price, or testing the waters to find out ‘if he can walk away from it entirely’. ‘deal. In the latter case, Hovakimian added, the Tesla CEO might simply have buyer’s remorse or, alternatively, the “funding package he [is] to use for this acquisition is becoming more and more expensive.
Hovakimian doubted Musk would want to give up entirely, saying, “I don’t understand why he needs this posture if he wants to cancel the deal.” Plus, walking away would likely incur a $1 billion severance fee and could cost Musk even more as a result of litigation.
As of Friday morning, Twitter’s market capitalization had fallen to $31 billion, about 30% below Musk’s takeover bid.