According to an upcoming biography by Walter Isaacson, Elon Musk orchestrated a cunning plan to punish CEO Parag Agrawal and senior management at Twitter during the closing of the deal. Musk altered the plans at the last minute, firing the executives before their stock options could vest. This move was motivated by Musk’s belief that Agrawal’s team had misrepresented the number of monetizable Twitter users, leading to Musk paying the hefty $44 billion price for the acquisition.
Musk’s decision to change the plan just hours before the closing was a calculated move to retain a $200 million differential by terminating the executives early. The biography describes this act as audacious and ruthless, driven by Musk’s conviction that the management had misled him. The attempt to withdraw from the deal was prevented by a Delaware court after Twitter’s then-chairman sued to enforce the agreement.
“There’s a 200 million [dollar] differential in the cookie jar between closing tonight and doing it tomorrow morning,” he explained to the Steve Jobs biographer, who Musk chose personally to pen an official account of the tycoon.
Even in defeat, Musk planned a final blow by firing Agrawal and his key lieutenants. The timings were critical for Musk’s plan to work flawlessly. At precisely 4:12 p.m. Pacific time on October 28, 2022, the letters of dismissal were delivered, and within six minutes, the executives were escorted out of the building and cut off from company email. Agrawal, who had prepared a resignation letter citing the change of control, was swiftly fired before he could send it.
“Agrawal had his letter of resignation, citing the change of control, ready to send. But when his Twitter email was cut off, it took him a few minutes to get the document into a Gmail message,” Isaacson wrote. “By that point he had already been fired by Musk.”
This act of revenge follows Musk’s previous attempt to sue the law firm that represented Twitter’s board against him, alleging overcharging. Despite Musk’s public statements that money isn’t his primary concern, this incident reveals his deeply rooted emotions when he feels cheated.