A tranche of Elon Musk’s private messages have been made public as part of his ongoing lawsuit with Twitter. The messages, revealed in a Thursday, shed new light on Musk’s behind-the-scenes negotiations with Twitter’s leadership, as well discussions with former CEO Jack Dorsey, and how Musk’s talks with CEO Parag Agrawal quickly soured.
The messages include the moment Musk tells Agrawal he wants to acquire Twitter and take it private, rather than join the board. Agrawal confronts Musk about an April 9th questioning if “Twitter is dying.”
Agrawal writes to Musk:
You are free to tweet "is Twitter dying?" or anything else about Twitter - but it’s my responsibility to tell you that it’s not helping me make Twitter better in the current context. Next time we speak, I’d like to you provide you [sic] perspective on the level of the internal distraction right now and how it [sic] hurting our ability to do work. I hope the AMA will help people get to know you, to understand why you believe in Twitter, and to trust you - and I’d like the company to get to a place where we are more resilient and don’t get distracted but we aren't there right now.
Musk responded less than a minute later. “What did you get done this week? I’m not joining the board. This is a waste of time. Will make an offer to take Twitter private.”
Twitter board chair Bret Taylor followed up with Musk a few minutes later asking to talk. “Fixing Twitter by chatting with Parag won’t work,” Musk tells Taylor. “Drastic action is needed. This is hard to do as a public company, as purging fake users will make the numbers look terrible, so restructuring should be done as a private company. This is Jack’s opinion too.”
The messages also provide a glimpse into the relationship between Dorsey and Musk. Dorsey has that “Elon is the singular solution I trust,” but hasn’t publicly commented since Musk sued in an attempt to renege on the acquisition.
But in the newly released messages, it’s clear Dorsey has wanted Musk to take on an active role at Twitter for some time. Dorsey tells Musk that he wanted him to join Twitter’s board of directors long before Musk acquired a large stake in the company.
“Back when we had the activist come in, I tried my hardest to get you on our board and our board said no. That’s about the time I decided I needed to work to leave, as hard as it was for me,” Dorsey says. “I think the main reason is the board is just super risk averse and saw adding you as more risk, which I though was completely stupid and backwards, but I only had one vote, and 3% of company, and no dual class shares. Hard set up. We can discuss more.”
Notably, this conversation occurred in late March, after Musk had a multibillion-dollar stake in Twitter, but before his stake had been made . He and Dorsey also discussed the Twitter cofounder’s belief that Twitter “can’t be a company.”
Dorsey writes to Musk:
I believe it must be an open source protocol, funded by a foundation of sorts that doesn’t own the protocol, only advances it. A bit like what Signal has done. It can’t have an advertising model. Otherwise you have surface area that governments and advertisers will try to influence and control. If it has a centralized entity behind it, it will be attacked. This isn’t complicated work, it just has to be done right so it’s resilient to what has happened to twitter.
Musk responds that the idea is “super interesting” and that “it’s worth both trying to move Twitter in a better direction and doing something new that’s decentralized.”
The following month, Dorsey also attempted to play mediator between Musk and Agrawal, at one point arranging a call between the three of them. “You and I are in complete agreement,” Musk tells Dorsey. “Parag is just moving far too slowly and trying to please people who will not be happy no matter what he does.”
“At least it became clear that you can’t work together,” Dorsey later responds. “That was clarifying.”