Elon Musk decides against joining Twitter board

Elon Musk will not join Twitter’s board of directors, reversing course just days after he became the technology company’s biggest shareholder and was offered the seat.

Parag Agrawal, the social media company’s chief executive, tweeted that Musk was meant to have been officially appointed to the board on Saturday after “many discussions” with the board.

But the Tesla chief executive then “shared that same morning that he will no longer be joining”, Agrawal said, without giving further details. “I believe this is for the best,” he wrote, adding that the company would remain open to [Musk’s] input ”.

The volte-face comes after the billionaire, a prolific Twitter user with more than 80mn followers, sharply criticized the platform over the past week and called for product changes, including an edit button and an authentication check mark for premium subscribers.

Musk wrote, “Is Twitter dying?” in one recent tweet and posted a poll asking if the company’s San Francisco headquarters should be converted into a homeless shelter “since no one shows up anyway”.

After it was announced that he would not join the board, Musk tweeted an emoji of a face with his hand over his mouth, which is often interpreted as a smirking expression. He did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

News of the entrepreneur’s Twitter stake and board appointment were greeted enthusiastically by investors. Shares jumped nearly 30 percent last Monday, when a filing at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission revealed Musk had acquired a passive 9.2 percent stake. They rose close to 10 per cent in pre-market trading the following day when it was revealed that he would join the board.

Musk later refiled the disclosure of his stake to show his status as an active investor.

But the decision was met with uneasiness among some Twitter employees and academics, who warned that Musk, a campaigner for free speech who has often been cast as a libertarian, might use it to push for weaker content policies. Some questioned whether Twitter’s lifetime ban of former US President Donald Trump would be reversed with Musk on the board.

Analysts also questioned whether Musk’s ambitions would align with increasing demands from advertisers, Twitter’s main source of revenue, for less toxic environments on social media platforms.

Agrawal said the company had initially been “excited to collaborate” with Musk but was “clear about the risks”, adding that as director with fiduciary responsibilities, he would have had to “act in the best interests of our company and all our shareholders” .

Musk’s followers were quick to debate why he had decided against taking the board seat. Some suggested he did not want to be retained to fiduciary duties, which would have probably meant he would have to curb his controversial tweeting about the company.

Others pointed out that the filing in which his appointment was announced stated that while he was on the board, he would only be permitted to hold 14.9 per cent of the company’s stock. Now, they noted, he would be free to build a bigger stake.

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