A number of executives have already left the company in the wake of Musk launching his takeover bid, impacting countless others further down the food chain. “The feeling internally is that people have been applying for jobs, and they’re going to keep applying for jobs,” says the first Twitter staffer.
Employees say they felt particularly aggrieved by a lack of management support when a number of staff were caught up in stings by Project Veritas designed to catch them publicly saying negative things about their potential new boss. “I joined Twitter and wanted to stay,” says the first employee. “I liked my job. Nothing would keep me here now—even if they returned to exactly what they were.”
The brain drain is likely to continue, with current employees worried about Twitter rescinding job offers to applicants and the impact that’s likely to have on who applies in the future. One job applicant who was offered a position at Twitter this year, only to have it rescinded during the takeover, says they would apply again to the company, but not before asking the manager they’d end up reporting to about internal politics and plans for the future.
Others aren’t as sure that the reputational risks to Twitter are as great as those inside the company fear. “The real worry was he would democratize it too much and allow people to say things that would be inappropriate on it,” says Cary Cooper, a business professor at Manchester Business School. “Shareholders would be worried because he has commercial nous.”
However, Cooper does think the investor impact could be more significant. “There is a downside, I think, because [Musk] would have thought about it as a commercial business acquisition, as well as a platform,” he says. Cooper believes Twitter’s senior leadership team will have to step up to the plate in Musk’s absence and introduce a new business plan to revitalize the company.
But there’s little indication that’s likely to happen, says Debra Aho Williamson, principal at market analysis firm Insider Intelligence. “The past few months have been a huge distraction for Twitter, keeping it from focusing on its business fundamentals,” she says. “If Musk is able to terminate the deal, Twitter will still be left with the same problems it had before he came on the scene. Its user growth is slowing. And while ad revenue is still growing marginally, Twitter is now dealing with a slowing economy that could squeeze ad spending on all social platforms.”
There’s also the question of staffing. The pileup of issues is a concern likely to prey on the minds of Twitter’s investors. The Vanguard Group, Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, Kingdom Holding Group, and State Street did not respond to questions about whether they felt Twitter should fight Musk in court or let the deal peter out. Ives believes that investors would prefer a Musk-free future for Twitter, with Agrawal leading the company and recouping punitive damages from Musk. Legal experts believe Musk will have to pay a significant amount if he doesn’t end up buying the company. For employees, it almost doesn’t matter. “I can’t imagine what it’s going to even be like in five years,” says the first Twitter employee. “But I know that nobody I know is going to be here.”
What route those investors decide on could be crucial to the next few months—and to whether Twitter can recover from the damaging events of the past three months. Twitter’s share price has been swinging wildly since Musk’s involvement in the company was first announced on April 4, when he declared a 9 percent stake in the firm. The price rose 27 percent on the day his stake was announced, to $49.97. It then peaked at $51.70 on April 25, when Twitter’s board accepted Musk’s offer, before cratering as Musk began detailing the litany of issues he had with the platform and finding reasons to pull out of the deal.
Today, Twitter’s share price opened at $34.64, 12 percent below its value immediately before Musk became intertwined with the company. It has dropped further since. “Musk basically fucked around with us, fucked with the share price, catalyzed a load of redundancies and cuts,” the first Twitter employee tells WIRED. “The morale is so fucking low that nobody wants to be here now anyway.”
Additional reporting by Vittoria Elliott