AILSA CHANG, HOST:
OK, Twitter is suing Elon Musk to force him to buy the company for $44 billion. Now, that is the amount the Tesla CEO had agreed to pay back in April before he changed his mind and tried to call off the deal last week. Well, one thing is for sure - for everyone involved now, a high-stakes, costly legal battle is ahead.
NPR tech correspondent Shannon Bond joins us now. Hey, Shannon.
SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: OK, so what exactly does Twitter allege in this lawsuit?
BOND: Well, it accuses Musk of hypocrisy and acting in bad faith. I think it's worth reading from the lawsuit. It says he thinks he can, quote, "change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value and walk away."
CHANG: OK, that's pretty strong language. What are their legal grounds for suing at this point?
BOND: Well, Twitter says Musk has broken this agreement that he signed in several ways. It accuses him of secretly stopping taking the steps necessary to secure the financing he needs to complete this purchase. It also says he's disparaged the company and its executives. The agreement says he's not supposed to do that. And generally, it just says he has not cooperated to get this deal done the way he's supposed to. Now, remember, Ailsa, Musk is the one who initiated this whole thing.
BOND: He started quietly buying up Twitter shares earlier this year, then surprised everyone by announcing he'd become Twitter's biggest investor. He accepted an invitation to join the board. Then he changed his mind. Then he surprised everyone again with this pitch to buy the whole company.
BOND: And so now you have Twitter, which was not looking for a buyer, you know, suing to make him buy it. And it's saying that Musk has treated this whole process as, quote, "an elaborate joke."
CHANG: Wow. OK, so just remind us why Musk changed his mind in the first place here.
BOND: Well, he said last week when he called off the deal that Twitter had misrepresented how many accounts on the platform are fake or spam, and that it hadn't turned over information he needed. But Twitter said that is all a pretext. It claims the real reason Musk wants to back out is that the deal no longer serves his personal interests. It says since he signed, the stock market has fallen, and that's made the price he agreed to pay for Twitter look expensive. And it's hurt the value of, you know, how he's going to pay - his Tesla shares, which are Musk's main source of wealth.
CHANG: Exactly. OK, so what have we heard from Musk since this whole lawsuit got filed?
BOND: Well, there's been no official response yet from Musk or his lawyers. He did just tweet, oh, the irony, lol. And over the weekend, he tweeted memes mocking Twitter's threats to sue him. You know, he'll get a chance to respond to this filing, and Twitter is asking for a quick four-day trial in September. This deal was supposed to close in October and they want to get this whole thing over with.
CHANG: OK, well, about that potential trial, you have reported that Twitter has a strong legal case against Musk. So what's your sense of how this might all play out?
BOND: I mean, look, if the court does agree with Musk, you know, he could just walk away. But you're right. The legal experts I've spoken with say that's unlikely. If the court sides with Twitter, it could compel Musk to go ahead and buy the whole company. But that would be a pretty drastic step - right? - to force an unwilling buyer to complete a deal this big.
It could be something in between those two extremes. You know, Musk and Twitter could reach a settlement. They could agree on a lower price for the deal. Musk could agree to pay Twitter something - you know, less than $44 billion, but not nothing - to walk away. But look, Ailsa, even though Twitter does seem to have the upper hand in court, none of these are great outcomes for the company.
BOND: It's already been very damaged by this entire saga.
CHANG: Indeed. All right, that is NPR's Shannon Bond. Thank you so much, Shannon.
BOND: Thanks for having me.
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