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Elon Musk Makes Surprise Twist on Twitter Acquisition

The billionaire says he has a Plan B and wants to retain as many shareholders as possible.
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Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Free Report CEO Elon Musk doesn't want go it alone.

The world's richest man was in the headlines yet again on April 14 when he offered to buy Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Free Report for around $42 billion and take it private just days after declining to join the microblogging site's board of directors. 

'Everyone Will Blame Me for Everything'

Musk, who unveiled a 9.1% stake in the micro-blogging website last week, was due to assume his seat on the board and had spoken publicly of his desire to bring "significant improvements" to the company. 

However, CEO Parag Agrawal later said that Musk has "declined to join our board" following what he called "many discussions", but declined to elaborate in terms of how the decision was taken.

Musk appeared at a TED Talk in Vancouver for an interview, which quickly shifted to the Twitter proposal.

Interviewer Chris Anderson reminded Musk that he had previously expressed no interest in buying Twitter, that "it is a recipe for misery," and "everyone will blame me for everything."

"And that's changed?" Anderson asked.

"No, I think everyone will still blame me for everything," Musk said. "Yeah, if I acquire Twitter and something goes wrong, I think everyone will blame me for everything."

Musk said that he has a "Plan B" in case his efforts to acquire Twitter don't work out, but declined to provide details.

"For another time, I think," he said.

"I am not sure that I will actually be able to acquire it," the billionaire said.

Musk, who has nearly 82 million followers on Twitter, said he wasn't sure that he would be able to buy the social media giant.

"The intent is to retain as many shareholders as is allowed by the law in a private company, which I think is around 2,000," he said. "So, it's definitely not from the standpoint of how to monopolize or maximize my ownership of Twitter, but we'll try to bring along as many as we're allowed to."

'A Healthy Free Speech Situation'

Musk added that "I could technically afford it, but this not a way to sort of make money."

"It's just that my strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization," he said. "I don't care about the economics at all." 

On the issue of expression, Musk said that it's a good sign as to whether there is free speech "is someone you don't like is allowed to say something you don't like."

"And if that is the case, then we have free speech," he said. "And it's damn annoying when someone you don't like says something you don't like, that this a healthy sign of a healthy free speech situation."

The acquisition plan is meeting resistance. Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, one of Twitter's "largest and long-term shareholders", said Thursday that Musk's bid doesn't come close to matching "the intrinsic value of Twitter given its growth prospects" and stated that he would reject the offer.

Twitter is mulling adoption of a poison pill to prevent Musk from increasing his stake significantly, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the situation. A poison pill generally is an effort designed to make a hostile takeover prohibitively expensive.