It is another stone thrown into what already appears to be a sea of chaos.
Elon Musk, the whimsical and charismatic CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has once again taken his fans and critics by surprise.
On October 27, he completed the acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion, after a six-month battle marked by many twists and turns, insults, and a court stop.
From the first minutes of his reign, he fired top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal. He also fired the entire Board of Directors. And without delay, the serial entrepreneur decided to launch a revamp of the social network.
Twitter 2.0 is supposed to be the platform for free speech. Consequently, Musk decided to reactivate the accounts of many conservatives, including that of Donald Trump, banned under the former leadership.
For Musk, there should be no limit to what is said on Twitter, unless it violates the law of the country in which the tweet is posted. This laissez-faire approach scared away many advertisers, who feared that their products and services would be associated with hateful, racist and anti-Semitic content.
Musk's positioning on the policy of managing what is acceptable or not on the platform was all the more surprising, given that 91% of Twitter's revenue comes from advertising, with subscriptions representing only nearly 9%, according to the second quarter's earnings. The Techno King, as he's known at Tesla, took Twitter private and, as a result, the company is no longer required to publish its earnings.
Musk also laid off half of the social network's 7,500 employees in one day. He then asked those who remained to commit to working long hours or to leave, which is what more than a thousand did.
This mass exodus of employees has weakened the company, according to many experts, as it came at the same time when Musk relaunched Blue, Twitter's subscription service. To make Blue attractive, the billionaire decided to include the account authentication checkmark, which until now was free and reserved for politicians, institutions, companies, celebrities, personalities and journalists.
The rollout of the new Blue, at an increased price to $7.99, was marked by a sea of fake accounts, impersonating companies and celebrities, including Musk and Tesla, his other company.
The tech tycoon had to suspend new signups from Blue just days after its launch. The service was relaunched this week. At the same time, Musk has become very political, calling on Americans, for example, to vote Republican during the mid-term elections. He also continued to denounce wokeism and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
One of his last big moves was to suspend the accounts of mainstream media journalists who had criticized him. This decision sounded an alarm among critics and brands about Musk’s unpredictability. It also has caused, according to many experts, great damage to another of his companies: Tesla (TSLA) - Get Free Report.
The electric vehicle maker is coming off one of its worst years in the stock market, which has led many individual investors to take on Musk, a rarity in the Tesla community where he is revered.
The carmaker's market value is currently over $474 billion, meaning that nearly $640 billion of market capitalization has evaporated in 12 months. Tesla’s stock is currently trading at $150.23, which represents a 57.4% year-on-year drop.
"Elon has now erased $600 bil of tesla wealth and still nothing from the Tesla BOD," lambasted Ross Gerber, one of Tesla's most vocal shareholder on December 16 on Twitter. "It’s wholly unacceptable." BOD stands for Board of Directors.
It seems that the billionaire is not deaf. He has heard the criticism and seems determined to act. He apologized and announced that "Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes. My apologies. Won’t happen again.”
'Should I step Down'
Musk has just launched a poll, asking Twitter users to vote on his future at the helm of the social network.
"Should I step down as head of Twitter?' he posted on December 17. "I will abide by the results of this poll."
Voters had only two options: Yes and No. Nearly 18 million Twitter users voted. The Yes won with 57.5% of the votes cast, against 42.5% for the No.
If Musk sticks to his promise, and if the yes continues to lead the race, he should no longer be the CEO of Twitter in the coming days.
The billionaire seems convinced of the victory of Yes since he subsequently posted new prescient messages, warning those who want him to give up the role of the CEO.
"As the saying goes, be careful what you wish, as you might get it," Musk warned.
"Yep, he already has the new CEO picked out," commented one Twitter user. "Elon will retire to being Chairman of the Board and Tweeter."
But the billionaire said there's no successor.
"No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive, There is no successor," the serial entrepreneur declared.
"The question is not finding a CEO, the question is finding a CEO who can keep Twitter alive," he said.
The entrepreneur also appeared somewhat weary: he tweeted this message:
"Those who want power are the ones who least deserve it," Musk said.
"While clearly unconventional the Musk CEO poll is a sign that the noise is growing louder and louder given the spider web of Twitter and Tesla weakness," Wedbush analyst Dan Ives commented. "Poll results will dictate if Musks stays officially CEO of Twitter….a big moment for this Twitter situation."
He added that: "If Musk leaves as Twitter CEO and appoints someone else (social media background ideal) this would be a major positive for Tesla shares as the Twitter overhang would be significantly reduced clearly in our opinion."
This isn't the first time Musk has made a big move after polling Twitter users. The mogul uses Twitter polls as an important data point for big decisions. In March, he asked users for their thoughts on the future of Twitter. A few days later, he made an offer to acquire the social network for $44 billion.
The sale of his Tesla shares a year ago is another example of him adopting this process of legitimization.