Last week, South African billionaire Elon Musk became Twitter’s largest shareholder, and the world’s richest person was soon thereafter invited to join the company’s board of directors. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal first announced the news this past Tuesday. But Musk stunned Wall Street, investors, and shareholders again by declining the offer a few hours later.
“The Board and I had many discussions about Elon joining the board, and with Elon directly,” Agrawal revealed on his own Twitter feed late Sunday evening. “We were excited to collaborate and clear about the risks. We also believed that having Elon as a fiduciary of the company where he, like all board members, has to act in the best interests of the company and all our shareholders, was the best path forward.” All that remained to officially install him on the board was a pending background check — but Musk clearly had other plans.
By Saturday morning, Musk had changed his mind and pulled the plug on the agreement some hours before it was final. “I believe this is for the best,” Agrawal continued in his post. “We have and will always value input from our shareholders whether they are on our board or not. Elon is our biggest shareholder and we will remain open to his input.” The billionaire then posted a now-deleted Tweet of a Face with Hand Over Mouth emoji shortly after midnight on Monday.
Musk’s decision to no longer join the board has greater implications with regard to his visions for Twitter. First, there would have been a “code of ethics” by which he would have to abide, which would restrict what he could tweet about, how to engage his followers, etc.
However, Musk’s abrupt about-face may have been part of his personal grudge with Agrawal, too. Twitter’s current CEO has raised concerns about internet censorship since his 2018 remark that the platform should “focus less on thinking about free speech.” Musk has always sought to position himself as a champion of free speech, and one particular Tweet from four months ago reveals that the entrepreneur has no intention to play nice.
Musk posted a two-part meme of Agrawal’s face photoshopped onto the that of late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s body. In the first photo, Twitter’s current CEO is standing on a bridge next to Jack Dorsey, the platform’s founder, and former CEO. Dorsey’s face is placed over that of Nikolay Yezhov, one of Stalin’s associates who was later reportedly assassinated under Stalin’s orders.
In the meme’s second pic, though, we see a splash in the river — and no more Dorsey.
Daniel Ives, Managing Director and Senior Equity Research Analyst for Wedbush Securities, told Insider this back-and-forth may be an omen of an eventual attempt at a hostile takeover by the South African. “This now goes from a Cinderella story with Musk joining the Twitter board and keeping his stake under 14.9%, helping move Twitter strategically forward, to likely a Game of Thrones battle between Musk and Twitter,” he said.