Elon Musk’s texts offer a rare glimpse at the billionaire boys’ club

Barbie Espinol

A trove of Elon Musk’s text messages was produced this week as portion of a lawsuit Twitter has filed against the billionaire, and it is proving to be an illuminating search inside discussions between Musk and a who’s who of celebs, journalists, Silicon Valley elites, and even politicians.

Between the quite wealthy and extremely popular who have a direct line to the Tesla CEO are Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, podcaster Joe Rogan, and broadcast journalist Gayle King. In texts, ultrawealthy traders casually give billions of bucks to guide in Musk’s work. Their sheer enthusiasm for Musk’s bid to acquire above Twitter also confirms what quite a few have extensive suspected about billionaires’ curiosity in possessing media businesses: They’re keenly mindful that managing a company like Twitter suggests becoming able to form narratives and wield influence.

Some, like Rogan, praised Musk’s bid to invest in the social media platform. On April 4, when Musk declared a 9 percent stake in Twitter but hadn’t but made an offer to obtain it outright, Rogan questioned, “Are you heading to liberate Twitter from the censorship satisfied mob?” Months afterwards, on April 23, Rogan texted, “I Truly hope you get Twitter.”

Several of those people texting Musk echoed his community reviews arguing the value of absolutely free speech on Twitter. Musk has taken concern with the more proactive approach to written content moderation that Twitter has taken in current many years — policies that appropriate-wing Twitter buyers have decried as discriminatory, in particular in light-weight of Trump’s long term Twitter suspension in January 2021.

Inside of times of the announcement that the Twitter board had acknowledged Musk’s $44 billion provide, Benioff, who is at this time worth far more than $6 billion, sent Musk a cryptic textual content about his own eyesight for the platform, writing on April 27, “Happy to speak about it if this is attention-grabbing: Twitter conversational OS—the townsquare for your digital lifestyle.”

Musk demurred, expressing, “Well I don’t have it however.”

The potential for some ability and influence over Twitter attracted politicians and the media, as well. The messages expose that previous Republican Rep. Justin Amash wished to chat to Musk, presenting his assistance on “how to deal with speech and moderation.” According to a textual content information from Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — greatly witnessed as a prospective GOP nominee for the 2024 presidential race — threw his aid guiding Musk’s bid to buy Twitter. Lonsdale floated the strategy of getting Musk and DeSantis chat.

Other acquaintances, like Hoffman, talked over encouraging Musk obtain Twitter. “$2B?” Musk floated, after Hoffman requested how considerably he and his VC companions could throw in.

“Great. Most likely doable,” replied Hoffman, who did not conclude up investing in the offer.

The messages ended up disclosed in court docket as component of the pretrial discovery approach in Twitter’s lawsuit from Musk for breach of agreement, submitted following Musk backed out of the deal to buy Twitter in July, proclaiming that the enterprise had misled him on the quantity of spam bots and bogus accounts on its system. Twitter, for its element, is arguing that Musk reneged on the deal not due to bots but because of a downturn in each Tesla and Twitter stocks. The trial is established to get started on October 17 in the Delaware Chancery Courtroom.

The texts expose that in the months just after Musk inked the Twitter deal in late April, professing his want to shield free of charge speech on the platform, his mates and associates eagerly supplied (occasionally unsolicited) advice on the way Twitter really should consider with Musk at the helm. One particular person recognized as BL Lee — it’s unclear who that is — proposed that Monthly bill Gurley, a enterprise capitalist of Uber fame, be appointed CEO of Twitter. At a person place, Musk texts broadcast journalist Gayle King, “maybe Oprah would be intrigued in becoming a member of the Twitter board if my bid succeeds.”

Various individuals sought to make introductions to many others hoping to have Musk’s ear. Amid the most decided to meet Musk was billionaire philanthropist Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

The initial volley came from Will MacAskill, an Oxford philosopher and one of the founders of the helpful altruism motion, whose strategies Musk has mentioned align carefully with his possess. MacAskill uncovered that Bankman-Fried experienced been intrigued in getting Twitter for a when and was interested in a “possible joint effort and hard work.”

“Does he have big quantities of money?” Musk questioned.

“Depends on how you determine ‘huge’!” MacAskill replied. “He’s well worth $24B, and his early staff members (with shared values) bump that to $30B.” Musk, the richest individual in the world, is presently really worth all-around $252 billion, according to Forbes.

Many of the text discussions concerning Musk and his associates run in this vein. Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, who contributed $1 billion to the Twitter deal, tells Musk in a textual content that he’s geared up to commit “whatever you endorse.”

Bankman-Fried, also a proponent of productive altruism, has earlier tweeted about how a decentralized Twitter that life on the blockchain may functionality, and how it could be monetized. In latest years, he has also come to be a major Democratic donor and has been lobbying in Washington for alterations in cryptocurrency rules.

MacAskill, the thinker, famous to Musk that it would be “easy” for Bankman-Fried to toss in $1 to $3 billion — or even lead as considerably as $15 billion, but that could call for financing.

Whilst the billionaires in Musk’s texts confirmed almost nothing but enthusiasm at his bid, many other folks — together with Twitter consumers and absolutely free speech advocates — expressed wariness if not outright alarm. Twitter is a platform employed by hundreds of tens of millions of users — even though Musk could possibly dispute that — and, in specific, is applied by journalists to share and examine the news of the working day. To them, the prospect of a Twitter led by an outspoken billionaire who is a recurrent critic of the media and of journalists was induce for worry.

But some media moguls did not reject the concept out of hand. Mathias Döpfner, CEO of German media group Axel Springer, which owns media retailers this kind of as Business enterprise Insider and Politico, even made available to operate Twitter for Musk if he acquired it. “Would be a serious contribution to democracy,” texted Döpfner in late March, months before Musk set in an give to get the web site.

Even the Murdochs, scions of conservative media magnate Rupert Murdoch, make an physical appearance in the texts. On April 26, James Murdoch — the young son of Rupert Murdoch and a director on Tesla’s board — told Musk that he will phone “when some of the dust settles.” His spouse, Kathryn Murdoch, a philanthropist and activist whose politics differ from her father-in-law’s, asked Musk if he’ll provide back again Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, who left the corporation in 2021 to focus on other tasks. “Jack does not want to occur back,” Musk replied. Dorsey did, even so, exchange various textual content messages with Musk on their shared vision for an improved Twitter.

These behind-the-scenes exchanges expose how quick and effortless it is for a fairly small circle of moneyed elites to toss in billions to assist invest in a general public organization that’s utilised by hundreds of millions of individuals and serves as a spot in which folks obtain to uncover a neighborhood around popular hobbies, beliefs, or goals. It is a powerful tool for disseminating news and details. Billionaires’ curiosity in helping obtain Twitter was not just about wanting a piece of the pie in conditions of equity. The texts advise that, for numerous in Musk’s elite circle, it was significant to have a say in what Twitter would glance like in the long term — a “free speech” town square the place they’ll conveniently continue on to have the largest megaphones.

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