Elon Musk expressed doubt about whether he’ll succeed with his $43 billion offer to buy Twitter Inc. in his first public comments about the blockbuster deal.
“I am not sure that I will actually be able to acquire it,” the billionaire entrepreneur said Thursday at a TED event in Vancouver. Musk said he has a Plan B if Twitter rejects his offer, without offering more details.
The comments, made during a lengthy interview with TED head Chris Anderson, came hours after the world’s richest person and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX roiled the financial world with the all-cash bid. With heightened interest in Musk’s activities, organizers of the conference made a last-minute change to make his prearranged appearance freely available online.
Twitter’s board views Musk’s move as unwelcome, The Information reported while he was still speaking, citing a person familiar with the situation.
The social-media company declined to comment beyond its earlier statement, which said the company would review Musk’s proposal and any response would be in the best interest of stockholders.
In the interview, Musk also criticized the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, saying he was essentially coerced into accepting a 2018 settlement in which he relinquished his role of chairman of Tesla’s board and paid a $20 million fine. The agreement came after Musk’s infamous tweet saying he had secured funding to take Tesla private.
Musk said Thursday that he had arranged the funding and said he was under pressure from the precarious financial situation of Tesla, which was struggling to ramp up the Model 3 sedan at the time.
“I was told by the banks that if I did not agree to settle with the SEC they would cease providing working capital and Tesla would go bankrupt immediately,” said Musk, who grew visibly emotional while speaking. “So that’s like having a gun to your child’s head. So I was forced to concede to the SEC, unlawfully.”
Musk, 50, revealed the proposed takeover of Twitter in an SEC filing earlier Thursday, after turning down the chance to take a board seat at the company. The bid is a high-stakes clash between Musk and the social media platform, which is used by more than 200 million people. Musk has been highly vocal about changes he’d like to see at the company.
Among Musk’s priorities for the platform: an edit button that would limit the amount of time that changes to a tweet could be made. Musk would also prioritize eliminating spam bots from the platform. He also thinks that the algorithm should be made public so there’s transparency on when tweets are changed, promoted or unpromoted.
Twitter’s shares on Thursday traded well below Musk’s $54.20 offer price, suggesting skepticism over the prospects of a deal. Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a major Twitter shareholder, said Musk’s offer doesn’t come “close to the intrinsic value” of the company “given its growth prospects.”
Musk said his intent “is to retain as many shareholders as is allowed by the law in a private company.”
Tesla’s shares fell 3.4% to $987.75 at 2:57 p.m. in New York, while Twitter slipped 2% to $44.92.