Twitter employees search for answers as Elon Musk takeover becomes reality

Twitter employees search for answers as Elon Musk takeover becomes reality

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In January 2020, thousands of Twitter employees gathered in Houston for a corporate summit called #OneTeam. During the event, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO at the time, revealed he had invited a surprise guest. Then, with a wave and a smile, Elon Musk appeared on giant screens above the stage. The crowd cheered, clapped and pumped fists. “We love you,” one employee shouted.
Inside Twitter today, surprise announcements about Musk land differently. Employees said they have largely stopped celebrating the richest man in the world since he declared his intent earlier this month to buy Twitter, scrap its content moderation policies and transform the publicly traded company into a private one. On Monday, Twitter announced it had accepted Musk’s offer to buy the company for about $44 billion.
As the takeover fight played out over the past two weeks, Twitter employees said they were frustrated that they had heard little from management about what it meant for them, even as Twitter closed in on a deal with Musk on Monday morning. They asked their CEO, Parag Agrawal. They asked Musk himself in questions sent on Twitter. Some even went to Charles Schwab, the financial firm that manages their stock options, for clarity about the impact a sale of the company would have on them.
But they were not getting very many answers before Musk’s bid succeeded, said 11 Twitter employees who asked to not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly, even as it became clear that they could soon find themselves reporting to Musk.
On Monday afternoon, Agrawal and Twitter’s chair, Bret Taylor, finally met with employees to discuss the deal. Compensation would remain largely the same under Musk, Agrawal said, but he did not make the same assurances about Twitter’s policies and culture. “We constantly evolve our policies,” Agrawal said in response to an employee question about whether former President Donald Trump would be allowed back on the platform. “Once the deal closes, we don’t know what direction this company will go in.”
The silence that hovered over the negotiations is routine in takeover fights, Taylor told employees. As the board of directors confers with bankers, lawyers and expensive public relations firms, employees are often kept in the dark. But for employees at Twitter, a company that has billed itself as the world’s town square, finding out what is happening to their company primarily through Twitter, the service they built, has been particularly embittering.
After years of leadership squabbles, demands for change from activist investors and the boundary-testing tweets of Trump, Twitter’s more than 7,000 employees are accustomed to turmoil. But some of them say the takeover by the mercurial billionaire is hitting them in ways other company crises have not.
Employees said they worried that Musk would undo the years of work they have put into cleaning up the toxic corners of the platform, upend their stock compensation in the process of taking the company private, and disrupt Twitter’s culture with his unpredictable management style and abrupt proclamations. But Musk also has fans among Twitter’s rank-and-file, and some employees have welcomed his bid. In an internal Slack message seen by The New York Times that asked if employees were excited about Musk, about 10 people responded with a “Yes” emoji. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.
If Twitter is worth buying, much of its value is in the employees who build and manage the service, said David Larcker, a professor of accounting and corporate governance at Stanford University. “The wild c...
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