SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk is not joining Twitter’s board after all, a reversal following last week’s revelation that he had become Twitter’s largest shareholder — and had received a subsequent appointment to the panel.
“Elon’s appointment to the board was to become officially effective 4/9, but Elon shared that same morning he will no longer be joining the board,” Agrawal wrote. “I believe this is for the best.”
The surprise move came less than a week after Twitter had said the outspoken Tesla CEO would become a board member, after he amassed a stake in the social media company of more than 9 percent. But Twitter employees and others were agitated over the move, worrying Musk might wield outsize power to undo some moderation decisions that were made — including banning President Donald Trump.
Agrawal said the company will “remain open to [Musk’s] input.” But, he added, the “decisions we make and how we execute is in our hands, no one else’s,” and he urged staff to tune out “distractions.”
Twitter said it would not comment Monday beyond Agrawal’s statement. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.
He tweeted an emoji of a face with its hand over its mouth shortly after the news broke. That tweet appeared to have been deleted Monday, along with several others related to Twitter that followed his investment. Musk also liked a tweet reply to Twitter’s CEO that opined on how Musk’s departure unfolded — theorizing that Musk was told “to play nice and not speak freely” despite his push for what he regarded as “free speech.”
A financial filing by Musk on Monday reflected that he would not be joining the board and included language saying he would be free to “express his views” on social media about Twitter’s business, products and services — to the board and management. The new filing said Musk held a 9.1 percent stake in Twitter.
Sunday’s announcement capped off an extraordinary and rapid series of events that began weeks ago when Agrawal said he first engaged with Musk in talks to join Twitter’s board. Agrawal last week welcomed Musk, who he called a “passionate believer and intense critic” to Twitter — rather than fight off an infiltration from an outside activist. Musk had only months earlier tweeted a meme superimposing the Twitter CEO’s face over that of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Musk is a prolific and controversial Twitter user who has amassed more than 80 million followers on the social media site. He uses his account as a bully pulpit to rally supporters of electric car company Tesla and aerospace outfit SpaceX. He tweets memes, conducts polls, and even engages in trolling of political figures and those he views as adversaries.
His penchant for tweeting has also landed him in hot water, including a costly settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Musk had to give up his board chairmanship of Tesla — subjecting himself and the company to $20 million fines apiece — after he tweeted that he had secured funding to take the company private at $420 a share in 2018.
Musk initially filed to become a “passive” investor in Twitter, documents revealed, but the next day paperwork was filed that would alter his status to become a board member.
“We were excited to collaborate and clear about the risks,” Agrawal wrote on Sunday. “We also believed that having Elon as a fiduciary of the company where he, like all board members, has to act in the best interests of the company and all our shareholders, was the best path forward.” Agrawal said Musk’s appointment was contingent on “a background check and formal acceptance.”
On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that Agrawal was scheduling a town hall with Musk where employees could ask him questions about his intentions and role.
Some Twitter employees expressed relief after it was revealed Musk would not be joining the board.
Rumman Chowdhury, director of machine learning ethics, transparency and accountability, appeared to credit Twitter with Musk’s departure in a tweet.
“I’ve kept quiet since the announcement because I wanted to give Twitter leadership a chance to do right by it’s employees, and they did,” Chowdhury wrote. “Thank you.”
Musk launched a poll the day his investment became public asking whether Twitter should add an edit button, something that would allow users to edit tweets after posting them. Twitter later weighed in and said such a feature had been in development for months and was not influenced by a poll.
Late last week, he tweeted a meme of himself smoking a joint with the words “Twitter’s next board meeting is gonna be lit.”
Over the weekend, Musk took aim at numerous aspects of the company, including its reliance on advertising — even for its subscription service — and the prevalence of spam accounts. He posted data showing Twitter’s top accounts and asked, “Is Twitter dying?”
Also on Saturday, the day his board appointment was supposed to become official, he even took an apparent dig at the company’s indefinite remote work policy. He launched a poll asking whether the San Francisco office should be made into a homeless shelter “since no one shows up anyway.” That tweet was deleted by Monday.
It had not been Musk’s first poll about Twitter. Before his investments in the company became public, Musk conducted polls seemingly aimed at influencing Twitter’s future.
He asked whether Twitter’s algorithm should be made public, or open-source; and a day later, he asked whether Twitter “rigorously adheres” to free speech principles.
“Is a new platform needed?” he later asked.
Musk has emerged as one of the platform’s most high-profile critics, questioning its role in restricting who and who cannot join.
After Trump was banned in the days following the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, Musk wrote that “a lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”
Musk’s board appointment limited his stake in the company at 14.9 percent. Now that he will not have a board seat, he is free to continue to invest beyond that figure.