Elon Musk isn’t even the boss yet, but Twitter employees already have reason to shudder. On Thursday, news broke that the mega-troll billionaire may slash the company’s headcount by nearly 75 percent—assuming his takeover actually goes through.
Twitter staffers, already weary from six months of nonstop upheaval, are preparing for the worst.
“We heard terrible stories about Tesla, so we’re worried about, under Elon’s leadership, what’s going to happen,” one Twitter employee told The Daily Beast, speaking under the condition of anonymity.
She added: “It’s something I, as a Twitter employee, think about every day.”
Another current staffer said that he and his peers are trying not to react rashly, given the ever-changing status of the Elon deal. “Everybody is just playing the waiting game, seeing what's going to happen,” he said.
In his corner of the business, the employee continued, people are mostly focused on meeting their quarterly goals and aren’t openly panicking. He plans to continue working at Twitter—at least if the choice is his. “I love working here,” he said.
Musk agreed to buy the business back in April, at the marijuana-themed price of $54.20 per share, or roughly $44 billion. But just three months later, he backed out, alleging that the company had misled him and other investors about the volume of spam and fake accounts on the platform.
Twitter didn’t appreciate that reversal and opted to sue Musk in the Delaware Court of Chancery. (The billionaire filed a countersuit of his own). A trial was slated to start this month, but Musk unexpectedly announced that he wanted to complete the deal at the original price. A judge gave the parties until Oct. 28 to complete the transaction. If they fail, the matter will likely head to trial in November.
In Thursday’s Washington Post report on the possible mass layoffs, a former Twitter higher-up called the proposal “unimaginable” and said it would weaken defenses against hacking and “offensive material such as child pornography.” The report also noted that job cuts are likely whether or not the buyout happens, and a company lawyer told the staff he did not have confirmation of Musk’s plans.
Twitter and Musk did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The company has reportedly hemorrhaged staff since Musk announced the potential takeover. A former employee who left in August over the specter of a merger said internal communications about the issue had been “terrible,” with “very little reassurance that the fundamental core of Twitter will remain the same.”
“I have never spoken to a person at Twitter who was happy about it,” she said of the potential purchase. “It was a mix of ‘I want to leave in protest,’ and just, ‘Let me find another job.’”
Many of those who remain at the company are anxious at the thought of even more jobs getting chopped. One anonymous employee expressed shock at Musk’s reported plan to ax 75 percent of the existing 7,500 staff. “It’s kind of insane to buy something just to burn it down,” she said. “That’s not sustainable, it can’t run on 25 percent capacity.”
She added that members of her department were nervously eying the severance packages at Musk’s other companies like Tesla, which is currently facing a lawsuit for allegedly offering some ex-employees just two weeks’ pay. Twitter’s current severance policy offers two months or more, but “nobody knows if he is going to honor that,” she said.
Other employees reacted to the news on—where else?—Twitter, firing off memes about the company’s San Francisco headquarters being replaced by a Spirit Halloween store or future all-hands meetings being attended by just four people. (“Crying and laughing at the same time,” one employee responded to the latter.)
“Tonight we open a good bottle of wine,” a tech lead based in Boulder declared. In May, that staffer had tweeted that he was experiencing “the most wtf period of time” in his eight-year tenure at Twitter. Then things got even crazier. On Thursday, he recirculated his original tweet, with the addition of “a giant FUCK somewhere in there.”
Dan Ives, an equity analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in a research note on Friday that Musk is poised to massively overpay for the business. “The $44 billion Twitter price tag is simply a train wreck for an asset that we peg [at a] fair value in the $30 billion range,” he wrote, citing the company’s “Everest-like uphill growth challenges.”
Ives endorsed some job cuts, given Twitter’s “lack of growth,” though he deemed layoffs in the 75 percent range as “way too aggressive” and a move that could set the platform back years.
The anonymous former employee, however, said she could see a silver lining.
“It’s probably good to take a couple months off just mentally, to recover from all of this chaos,” she said. “I think it’s been a rollercoaster ride for everybody.”