What would you do if you were the world’s richest person with a net worth north of US$250 billion ($341 billion)? What if you were an accomplished innovator who owned the world’s most valuable car company worth more than US$1 trillion as well as the world’s most valuable space company worth US$100 billion, and were also the CEO of other firms, including Boring Co that builds huge tunnels, and you grew bored? To avoid boredom, you might try to keep yourself busy by tweeting a lot more to your 80 million or so followers around the world. You might even try championing the cause of free speech and polling your followers on whether they thought there was a need for a new fairer social media platform or an improved version of Twitter.
For more than a week now, the world’s richest person and electric vehicle (EV) pioneer Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Inc and Space X, has mesmerised the business and tech world with his antics on and at Twitter, the microblogging platform. Not only has he been tweeting a lot, Musk disclosed last week the purchase of 73.5 million shares — or 9.2% — of Twitter’s stock, becoming its largest shareholder, way more than company’s founder Jack Dorsey who has a mere 2.4% stake and recently stepped down to focus on his other full-time gig as founder CEO of fintech giant Block Inc, formerly known as Square. Dorsey’s successor Parag Agrawal, promptly invited Musk to join Twitter’s board. When the world’s richest man becomes your firm’s substantial shareholder, it is prudent to lay out the red carpet rather than try to fight him off.
A week and dozens of tweets later — including a suggestion to turn Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters into a “homeless shelter” and perhaps removing the letter “w” to rename Twitter as “Titter” — Musk, who had initially agreed to join the board, abruptly changed his mind and declined the board invitation. The about-turn came after Twitter informed Musk that he will have to go through “background checks” before he could take his seat in the boardroom. Why would the world’s richest person, whose life is an open book, in part due to his constant tweets, agree to background checks by Twitter?