Tesla CEO Elon Musk acquired a 9% stake in Twitter to become its largest shareholder, just before raising questions about the social media platform’s dedication to free speech.
The ultimate aim of Musk’s 73.5 million share purchase worth $3 billion based on the closing price Friday is not clear. Yet in late March Musk, who has 80 million Twitter followers and is very active on the site, questioned free speech on Twitter and whether the platform is undermining democracy.
The regulatory filing Monday says Musk bought the shares on March 14, describing him as a long-term investor looking to minimize his buying and selling of the shares. That means that Musk acquired the shares before beginning his public discourse on the First Amendment and Twitter.
Yet Musk has also raised the possibility, publicly before his massive and loyal Twitter following, of starting a rival social media network.
Twitter’s stock surged more than 22% at the opening bell Monday. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk told his more than 80 million followers on Twitter that he was “ giving serious thought ” to creating his own social media platform and has clashed repeatedly with financial regulators about his use of Twitter.
Musk’s revelation about his stake in Twitter shares comes two days after Tesla Inc. posted first-quarter delivery numbers. While the company delivered 310,000 vehicles in the period, the figure was slightly below expectations.
Shortly after the November tweets about the Tesla stock sale Musk began selling off shares, and he wrote on Twitter that the sale would go to pay tax obligations on stock options. Analysts estimate his tax obligation at $10 billion to $15 billion. But some of the money could have been used to buy the Twitter stake.
So far he has sold more than 15 million shares worth roughly $16.4 billion. With some sales in late December, Musk is close to selling 10%.