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READING THE TL TEA LEAVES

A brief history of Elon Musk and Twitter

Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives at Manhattan federal court for a hearing on his fraud settlement, dressed in a black suit and standing in front of a microphone.
Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
A fraught relationship.
By Courtney Vinopal
Published Last updated

Elon Musk, who offered to buy Twitter for $52.40 a share today (April 14), has amassed one of the biggest followings on the social media platform over the years thanks to his musings, half of which he claims are made while on the toilet.

When a Twitter board seat didn’t work out for Musk, who secured a 9.2% stake in the company in recent weeks, he made an offer to take the company private.

Musk and Twitter have had a rocky relationship over the years:

July 2018: A row with a cave diver

Musk drew criticism after calling British diver Vernon Unsworth, who helped rescue 12 children trapped in a cave in Thailand, a “pedo” on Twitter. Unsworth sued him for defamation, but Musk won the case.

Analyst Gene Munster wrote an open letter to Musk shortly after his attacks on Unsworth, encouraging him to take a “Twitter sabbatical.”

September 2018: The SEC sues Musk for misleading investors

In a now-infamous tweet, Musk said on Aug. 7 that he had the money to take Tesla private at $420 a share, prompting the company’s stock price to rise by 6%. In reality a deal was far from certain, and the SEC sued Musk for securities fraud.

Musk and Tesla reached a $40 million settlement with the SEC which requires a corporate lawyer to approve tweets containing material information for Tesla investors. Musk is currently fighting to get rid of his “Twitter sitter.”

Around the same time Tesla board members reportedly expressed concern about his use of the social media platform as well as his dependency on the sleep drug Ambien, which had sometimes intersected with his Twitter habit.

November 2021: Musk sells off Tesla stock after a Twitter poll

Musk moved markets again on Nov. 8 when he proposed selling 10% of his Tesla stock via a Twitter poll. The majority of respondents said yes and he eventually honored the poll, likely to cover a tax bill.

The SEC subpoenaed Tesla, and Musk has been trying to quash this request in court.

January 2022: A college student trolls Musk

Though Musk has said he sees Twitter as the “de facto public town square,” he tried to shut down one account started by 19-year-old Jack Sweeney, who was tracking the billionaire’s private jet. In a direct message, Musk offered him $5,000 to close it.

Sweeney has kept the account up.

March 2022: Musk polls Twitter on free speech

On March 25, Musk asked followers:

But he failed to disclose that by this time he had already secured a sizable stake in Twitter, and is now being sued by other Twitter shareholders.

April 2022: Twitter offers Musk a board seat

After becoming the biggest shareholder in Twitter, the company offered him a board seat. Musk then floated new ideas for the platform, including adding an edit button, and turning Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters into a shelter for the unhoused.

He rejected the seat, and instead tried to buy the company.

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