Science

Twitter takeover: Before Elon Musk, Google, Disney and Salesforce surrendered

Can we finally buy out Twitter? This is the whole point of the trial, which will take place in mid-October between the blue bird and multi-billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The latter agreed to buy the company for $44 billion last April, but suddenly changed his mind. The official reason: bots and fake accounts, which he says represent at least 20% of users, while Twitter has been saying for years that they are less than 5%. In choosing not to take out the checkbook, the Tesla and SpaceX boss is also relying on recent revelations by a whistleblower who accused the social network of lying to regulators about its cybersecurity.

If Elon Musk was the first to pull out of the takeover after officially committing, other tech giants almost bought the social network before changing their minds. And for good reason, Twitter has all the trappings of a great purpose: it’s a strong global social network with a community of around 300 million users, of which 237 million can be monetized, according to the company. Twitter also enjoys huge influence and notoriety. But its leaders can’t take the extra step in user growth and are scrambling to find a sustainable economic model that logically whets the appetite of other tech giants who believe they can unlock its potential.

So, in 2016, a year after founder Jack Dorsey’s rather unfortunate return to the head of the company, three of them fought to buy Twitter: Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Disney and enterprise software. giant Salesforce. Everyone finally gave up.

Too expensive for Salesforce

Very aggressive on the M&A front, Marc Benioff, the seething boss of Salesforce, was clearly the most excited about the idea of ​​buying Twitter, which he described in the press as “a diamond in the rough.” The customer relationship management software giant has been particularly eyeing the personal data stored on the social network. Its goal is to get to know consumers as best as possible in order to tailor its CRM offerings and the software it sells to companies. Salesforce also thought they could make Twitter a profitable business by using their experience in the BtoB segment, which was underdeveloped at the time.

Not long after he lost LinkedIn to Microsoft, Marc Benioff seemed determined to take over Twitter. But the social network, then valued at $18 billion to $20 billion and also courted by Google and Disney, upped the ante and wanted to sell between $25 billion and $30 billion. Too expensive for Salesforce shareholders, who have not received well the Marc Benioff project, in which they criticized the frenzy of acquisitions with 12 companies acquired in the last 12 months, totaling $ 4 billion, and insufficient cash to afford such an expensive undertaking.

‘Hatred’ and ‘problems’ scare Disney boss

The other option for Twitter back then was Disney. Bob Iger, CEO at the time, already had Disney’s turn to streaming in mind, but the group lacked culture and technical skills. For him, Twitter is the perfect distribution platform.

“Twitter was a social network, but we saw it as something completely different: a global platform for distributing our content, because we wanted to go into the streaming business, but we were not a technology company. We wanted to use Twitter to tell the world about news, sports and entertainment. It would be a phenomenal solution in terms of distribution,” the former leader said in early September 2022 at the Code Conference in the USA.

After convincing the board of directors of Disney and then Twitter, the case was almost in the bag. But days before the signing, Bob Iger has doubts. “As the manager of a major global brand, I was not ready to be distracted by so many issues associated with buying a social network, including moderation and toxicity. “explains the former leader, who then sees the contradiction between the Disney business -” have fun, do good as well as all the hate speech and toxic use of the social network.

The leader also remembers keeping a close eye on fake accounts. ” We took a very close look at all Twitter users, and then, using Twitter, we determined that a significant proportion, not the majority, are fake. “, he says, specifying that this did not affect his change of mind.

Google just wanted tech tools from Twitter, not the rest

Finally, the last major contender was Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The world’s online advertising champion, Google could use Twitter to strengthen its position in native and mobile advertising, as well as take big budgets from its customers by integrating Twitter into its campaigns, which in turn would improve Twitter’s monetization, which also, in fact, lives. on advertisements.

The market was very enthusiastic about the idea of ​​a deal, but Google ultimately didn’t want it, causing Twitter’s market value to drop nearly 10% on the day the pull was announced. Google actually didn’t think buying all of Twitter was worth the cost: instead, it bought a “package” that included most of its developer tools, including sFabric mobile app development platform, Crashlytics incident reporting platform, Answers mobile app analytics tool, Digits SMS login system, and Fastlane development automation system. Alphabet’s goal: to strengthen Google in the strategic cloud computing business, where it was and remains only third behind Amazon and Microsoft.

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