‘Trashed’ Twitter sues Elon Musk to make him complete $65b takeover

Twitter sued billionaire Elon Musk over his abandoned $US44 billion ($65 billion) takeover bid, asking a judge to force him to follow through on his offer.

Lawyers for Twitter told a Delaware judge that the world’s richest man failed to honour his agreement to pay $US54.20 a share for the San Francisco-based social-media platform. Musk abandoned the deal on Friday, citing in part concerns about the number of fake accounts among users.

Twitter Chairman Bret Taylor said last week that the company planned to pursue legal action against Musk, and in a letter released on Monday, its lawyers called the deal termination “invalid and wrongful.” The filing sets up what will be a closely watched court battle between Musk and Twitter, a communications tool that the billionaire favours but where his missives have previously gotten him in legal trouble.

Twitter has sued Elon Musk for walking away from their takeover deal.Credit:AP

“Having mounted a public spectacle to put Twitter in play, and having proposed and then signed a seller-friendly merger agreement, Musk apparently believes that he — unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law — is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away,” Twitter said in the lawsuit.

Musk backed out of the deal to buy the platform on July 8, saying in a regulatory filing that the company has made “misleading representations” over the number of so-called spam bots on the service. Twitter hasn’t “complied with its contractual obligations” to provide information about how to assess how prevalent the bots are on the social medial service,” Musk said in a letter to Twitter that was included in the regulatory filing.

Musk also argued that Twitter has failed to operate its normal course of business. The company instituted a hiring freeze, fired senior leaders and saw other major departures. “The company has not received parent’s consent for changes in the conduct of its business, including for the specific changes listed above,” Musk said in the letter, calling it a “material breach” of the merger agreement.

‘Having mounted a public spectacle to put Twitter in play, and having proposed and then signed a seller-friendly merger agreement, Musk apparently believes that he is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away.’

“Musk refuses to honour his obligations to Twitter and its stockholders because the deal he signed no longer serves his personal interests,” Twitter said in the suit.

Twitter shares lost 12 per cent of their value in the first trading day after Musk announced he was walking away. The stock is down 21 per cent from the start of the year, trading at $US34.04 at the close Tuesday.

Musk’s deal with Twitter had included a provision that if it fell apart, the party breaking the agreement would pay a termination fee of $US1 billion, under certain circumstances. Legal experts have debated whether the conflict over spam bots is enough to allow Musk to walk away from the deal.

But the merger agreement also includes a specific performance provision that allows Twitter to force Musk to consummate the deal. Twitter must prove it didn’t violate the buyout agreement’s terms and that Musk breached the pact by pulling out. The company hired merger law heavyweight Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to represent it in the fight.

“This repudiation follows a long list of material contractual breaches by Musk that have cast a pall over Twitter and its business,” the lawsuit said. “Twitter brings this action to enjoin Musk from further breaches, to compel Musk to fulfil his legal obligations, and to compel consummation of the merger upon satisfaction of the few outstanding conditions.”

Twitter told staff in a memo that it has asked for the case to be heard on an expedited basis, in September.

While he hasn’t been sued by the company before, Musk has faced several Twitter-related legal challenges in the past, including winning a defamation suit by someone that he called a “pedo” on the platform.

His 2018 “funding secured” tweet about taking Tesla private spurred several lawsuits and an inquiry by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. In April, he lost a court bid to get out from under terms of the 2018 settlement he agreed to with the SEC, which required review of any Tesla-related tweets.

Earlier this year, he won a suit filed in Delaware by investors who claimed that the Tesla buyout of SolarCity was improper.

Delaware, the corporate home to more than 60 per cent of Fortune 500 companies, is home to a court system that is well-versed in business battles. In recent years, the chancery court has ruled on failed mergers including retailer LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and jeweller Tiffany & Co.

Bloomberg

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