Who Really Owns Twitter?

Last week I purchased approximately $4,500 in Twitter common stock. Public reports indicated Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk might soon use his own money either to buy Twitter outright or to gain a controlling stake in the company so he might stop Twitter’s censorship. I bought at approximately $45, well below the $54.20 per share Musk offered. Twitter doesn’t pay a dividend and it loses $0.29 per share. If shareholders are to see any return on investment from Twitter’s $1.5 billion in annual revenue, it has to come through share appreciation.

Twitter stock has increased from around $20 per share to around $45 per share over a five year period. That sounds pretty good until you consider Twitter hit $44.49 in mid-2018. The stock spiked again in 2021 to around $77 but crashed back to earth at $33.39 earlier this year. Only by timing the market could a shareholder make money over the last several years. 

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, on the other hand, has found the company to be reliably profitable. He received $30.35 million in compensation in 2021, which included a month off. While Agrawal has not made any money for his investors, he’s savaged Twitter’s nonconforming users. A normal business would try to recruit and build its user base. Agrawal, instead, has unleashed a wave of bans and censorship to please the woke. In January 2021, Twitter permanently banned Donald Trump from the platform. Many of his fans and followers soon followed

Twitter has engaged in some pretty underhanded behavior. It famously censored the Biden laptop story which connected candidate Joe Biden to corrupt foreign payments for influence. Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) now claims that the FBI fed Twitter what it knew to be false information that the laptop was a Russian hoax. Twitter also colluded with other tech giants to censor the story from reaching voters ahead of the election. The Federal Election Commission blessed this election interference a year later because it hurt the “Bad Orange Man.” Has Twitter done any of this for the benefit of the shareholders? It does not appear so.

It wasn’t that long ago that news media organizations dismissed charges of political partisanship as conspiracy theories. Under normal conditions, competitor news organizations would not stake a position opposing the possibility of Twitter charting a new course away from censorship. Now they openly express alarm that a member of the conspiracy of partisanship might leave the fold. 

The mainstream press has published countless editorials and opinion pieces masquerading as news stories trying to influence public opinion to oppose Musk’s bid. Former Reddit CEO Ellen K. Pao offers fascinating insight into the authoritarians who demand thought conformity. In the newspaper owned by Jeff Bezos, Pao writes, “Musk’s appointment to Twitter’s board shows that we need regulation of social-media platforms to prevent rich people from controlling our channels of communication.” 

Moreover, Pao argues we need government content regulations or else “people will continue to be harmed. The people harmed will disproportionately be those who have been harmed for centuries—women and members of marginalized racial and ethnic groups. The people who benefit from unrestricted amplification of their views will also be the same people who have benefited from that privilege for centuries.”

What a load of authoritarian doublespeak. Pao just wants to continue the practice of accusing every political opponent of “racism” to justify censorship. We’ve all seen examples of “community guidelines” being used as weapons in the hands of the Left. Pao wants her side to keep this power over speech so it may continue to bully and intimidate her political opponents. She openly calls for a world “safe” from offensive speech.

Twitter is supposed to be a private company. And it’s supposed to be owned by its shareholders who have a right to expect the board to pursue policies that make them money. Twitter is not making money for its investors. Its social justice agenda drives away users and loses money. Musk just offered to buy out the long-abused investors in order to liberate the business from the unprofitable practices of the woke C-suite. This is a microcosm of the modern corporate woke problem that allows social justice warriors to pursue personal agendas at the expense of other people’s money.

Instead of protecting our interests, and without asking its owners, Twitter’s board acted according to the whims of Agrawal. Of course Agrawal wants to keep his power and obscene compensation. So in order to protect his sweet deal, the Board voted for a “poison pill,” which will cause shareholders to lose even more money.

The board was pretty open about its objective to block shareholders like me from Musk’s generous buyout offer. If Musk accumulates more than 15 percent of the company, Twitter will attack the value of my shares by flooding the market with new shares. According to the plan, the board will allow existing shareholders (excluding Musk) “to purchase, at the then-current exercise price, additional shares of common stock having a then-current market value of twice the exercise price of the right.” 

In other words, if I want to maintain my share of ownership (small as it is), I would need to fork over enough money to proportionally match all the other buyers opposing Musk’s bid. What do I get for sinking more money into my Twitter investment? I simply retain the value I now have. Put simply, Twitter is forcing me to lose money to prevent Musk from making me money.

Agrawal should not be able to abuse investors’ positions to maintain his lock on compensation and further his social justice crusade. If he wants to control Twitter at the expense of the owners, he should have to pay us for our shares. He’s the one making the money from Twitter, not the investors. That needs to stop. The bidding starts at $54.20. Can you beat that, Mr. Agrawal? If not, let us sell our shares to Musk.

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About Adam Mill

Adam Mill is a pen name. He is an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness and works in Kansas City, Missouri as an attorney specializing in labor and employment and public administration law. He graduated from the University of Kansas and has been admitted to practice in Kansas and Missouri. Mill has contributed to The Federalist, American Greatness, and The Daily Caller.

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