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Twitter board in a bind as Elon Musk makes his move

Cartoon image of Twitter-logo birds flying out of empty wallet.

If Twitter’s board initially thought Elon Musk’s offer to buy the social media company for $43 billion was just a stunt, it has now found itself on the defensive on multiple fronts.

After the world’s richest man revealed on Thursday how he plans to fund his takeover bid, Twitter’s directors are under pressure to come to the negotiating table with him or find alternatives, such as a “white knight” bidder to come to their rescue, as the company nears a make-or-break moment.

For some, Musk’s bid has stoked hopes that Twitter will be taken private in order to address its perceived failure to innovate and find new revenue streams, even if many do not see Musk as the man for the job. It has also shined a spotlight on Twitter’s checkered history of sluggish innovation, technical shortcomings and leadership infighting.

“Twitter has been developed to a fraction of its full potential,” said one former board member. “God yes, it should go private. There is a world where I can imagine the business is 10 to 100 times bigger.”

The board is “caught in-between not enough value in Musk’s bid but maybe not enough ability to realize the greater value themselves,” said one tech investor, who does not have a position in Twitter.

Twitter has grown at a far slower clip than social media peers including Facebook and LinkedIn, and has been less profitable. In 2020, it drew the scrutiny of an activist investor, Elliott Management, over concerns that its co-founder and then-chief executive Jack Dorsey was too freewheeling and indecisive.

Analysts and advertisers have criticized Dorsey for being a Twitter purist too focused on small tweaks to the core product, while failing to aggressively seek ways to boost its advertising offering and diversify revenues beyond ads, to areas such as subscriptions.

“Here’s a company that has so much potential and keeps squandering it. You’ve almost got a whole PhD thesis on missed opportunities,” said one advertising agency executive, adding that Twitter had failed to capitalize on areas such as short-form video, ratings and reviews, and news.

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