Opinion

Elon Musk’s Growing Grab Bag of Investors

While doubters still think Elon Musk may not carry through with his plan to buy out Twitter, the world’s richest man has garnered a new vote of confidence. Seven billion votes of confidence, to be more precise.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Musk revealed he had put together an additional $7.14 billion in financing commitments from a grab bag of investment partners to help him complete the purchase.

He’ll probably still need more for the full $44 billion buyout, meaning this may be only the start of others joining the group, which now includes the longtime Musk mentor Larry Ellison, the Oracle co-founder and perhaps Silicon Valley’s most enduring titan, who is putting in the significant sum of $1 billion. Of course, Musk being Musk, the deal still may take another unexpected turn.

Considering the wild ride of Tesla stock recently, as investors realize how leveraged the Twitter deal is, it’s interesting to see Tesla fanboys joining in too, such as the financier Ron Baron, a major Tesla shareholder. Still, there are no big-name private equity players yet, probably because Musk finds the cost of their involvement is too high.

Also in the mix are a smattering of well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalists, including Sequoia Capital to the tune of $800 million (which is not peanuts) and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, which has committed $100 million. Andreessen Horowitz is putting up $400 million; its co-founder Marc Andreessen sits on the Meta board, which some worry is a potential conflict of interest. Vy Capital, founded by Alexander Tamas, a former partner in DST, which was key to Facebook’s early funding, tossed in $700 million. And the institutional investor Fidelity is putting up an oddly specific $316,139,386 — am I missing another weed joke in there?

Truly, the bunch is all over the map. Perhaps the most interesting is Binance, the Bitcoin exchange run by Changpeng Zhao, which committed half a billion dollars. Prince al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, who previously said Twitter should reject Musk’s bid for being too low, flipped and is putting his 35 million share stake into the deal. After the two exchanged tweets, all appears to be peaceful for now.

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is on the list, with $375 million, because nothing says free speech like an absolute monarchy. Then again, if you think about it, that is probably going to be Twitter under Musk’s rule, which could include a stint as chief executive.

One name missing from the list: the Twitter co-founder and Musk BFF Jack Dorsey, who remains a big shareholder, although Musk said in the filing he’s having continued discussions with him. And I suspect the financing jigsaw puzzle for this is not complete yet, as bankers shake out their bags of rich people who might want to hang with the most interesting man in the world (besides the Dos Equis beer pitchman).

Drink up for this deal to move forward for now, because with the money Musk gets to clean up the margin loan landscape a bit. That said, all the payments due will be a heavy lift for him and Twitter unless more investment comes in or he somehow manages to transform Twitter, which never had a big business, into a big business. Musk talked this week about charging fees to companies or governments for using Twitter, an idea that has been floated for a while by others, but won’t goose the site’s cash flow overnight.

Given Musk has used Twitter to market and publicize his own businesses like Tesla and SpaceX — in between dank memes posts and oddball one-off lines like this week’s “the elusive beauty of imperfection” — he’s fully aware of the power of Twitter to promote brands.

Most especially, of course, Brand Elon, the maybe-soon-to-be Supreme Ruler of the Twitterverse.

4 Questions

Jeremy Stoppelman is the co-founder and chief executive of the online recommendation service Yelp. He discussed reproductive rights in light of the leaked draft opinion on abortion from the Supreme Court. I’ve edited his answers.

Your company was early in supporting employees to get access to abortion services as the restrictions in some states mounted. What is your reaction to the draft opinion leaked from the Supreme Court?

It was disheartening, but it wasn’t shocking. Even though we knew this was likely to happen, I’m still appalled by the opinion. Women have a human right to access the health services they need and to make decisions over their own bodies, and the vast majority of Americans agree with that sentiment. Anyone who didn’t see this coming hasn’t been paying attention.

This is why we expanded our health insurance coverage to include out-of-state travel costs for Yelp employees and their dependents who may need to access reproductive deva outside their state due to local restrictions. We’re remote-first now with employees in every state, and nearly half of them are women, so we wanted to make müddet that all our employees had equal access to the health services they need. I wish this decision wasn’t up to individual companies, but here we are. Now, it’s up to Congress to ensure that these rights are protected by codifying Roe into law.

Why are so few in tech doing this? Are companies exhausted by the persistent onslaught of social issues, or has Silicon Valley gotten more conservative over time?

Many outspoken and prominent leaders on these issues seem to have retreated during the Trump era, perhaps due to their exposure to government contracts or fear of being singled out by Donald Trump himself, and they haven’t come back. I don’t believe Silicon Valley has suddenly become more conservative, it’s just that a few well-known personalities have leveraged social media as a megaphone to espouse their particular worldview.

The silence on this particular issue is deafening and I would like to call on other C.E.O.s and venture capitalists to join us. Let’s not allow ourselves to be collectively cowed into staying quiet on this and other important social issues. Reproductive rights have very broad popular support and intimately impact 50 percent of your employees. It’s time to stand up for them.

What is the duty of a company to its employees these days, as the relationship between employer and employee changes, and there is more pressure to involve workers in policy?

You can’t focus on your job if your basic rights are under attack. Companies that want to have a productive and thriving work force can’t keep politics out of the office because, at the core, these social issues significantly impact an employee’s day-to-day life. Not only do most employees deva deeply about these issues, but they want to feel their company supports them and their colleagues.

At Yelp, we have a diverse work force and want to be an organization that attracts and retains the very best talent from all walks of life. We will not shy away from taking a stand on issues that matter to our employees, whether it be systemic racism, violence against Asians, L.G.B.T.Q. and trans rights, or women’s rights.

You have been persistent for a long time in pressing Congress and others for tech regulation and also calling attention to the overwhelming power of bigger companies like Google and their impact on businesses like yours. What is your assessment now about current legislation to make laws that protect you and others?

As you can probably tell, we’re not a fan of bullies. Google and other Big Tech monopolists have run rampant and unchecked for far too long. There was a time, as recently as 1998, when the government was far more assertive against an all-powerful and abusive tech monopoly, and innovation in Silicon Valley thrived because of it. Recent words and actions coming from the White House, Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission on issues of consolidation and competition have been very encouraging.

Additionally, exciting antitrust legislation awaits a floor vote in Congress, one of which is narrowly tailored to prevent the most egregious forms of self-dealing by Big Tech. This bill would explicitly ban the self-preferencing that monopolies like Google and Amazon use to stifle competition.

The bills under consideration are bipartisan and recent polling shows they are supported by a majority of the country. They face stiff opposition from the Big Tech monopolies, which are aggressively lobbying to prevent them from getting a floor vote. This unified and multimillion-dollar opposition shows that Big Tech knows these bills will be effective at leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs, start-ups and would-be competitors. The return of competition to the internet will benefit consumers with innovation, choice and lower prices for small businesses.

If members of the House and Senate are allowed to cast a vote on this legislation, I believe it will pass. Senator Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi should give their members the chance to take back control of our economy and democracy from the Big Tech monopolies that have caused so much harm.

Lovely & Loathsome

Lovely: Many of the old guard of venture capitalists have curdled well past their sell date, becoming more narcissistic, more insular and more small-minded as they have gotten ever richer. Some have even gone full conspiracy theory.

That’s why it’s heartening to see the $1.1 billion donation by John Doerr, one of the most successful V.C.s in tech history, and his wife, Ann, to Stanford University to fund a new school focused on climate change and sustainability.

“Climate and sustainability is going to be the new computer science,” said Doerr in an interview with The Times. I could not agree more, having written with hope more than two years ago that the world’s first trillionaire will be a climate change entrepreneur. And Doerr has a history in greentech investments, though the start-ups he backed largely failed.

Some are fretting that such a sum should be aimed at a wider world than a well-endowed top-notch university and are nervous about Stanford being willing to take funding from oil and gas companies. But for now it’s a good sign that Doerr is — along with the tech billionaires Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates — trying to find a use for his enormous wealth to help solve our world’s most obvious existential crisis. Good on him.

Loathsome: The görüntü. The viral one. Of Representative Madison Cawthorn, Republican of North Carolina. Doing stuff. This didn’t need to exist and the world müddet didn’t need to see this leak out.

I will leave you with the take by the former U.S. attorney and current podcaster Preet Bharara’ on Twitter, which is going to town on this one: “Lordy I wish there weren’t a tape.” Lordy — me too.

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