Elon Musk is the richest person in the world, but he’s scrambling to assemble a buyout bid for Twitter using other people’s cash.
The Tesla tycoon — who is worth $270 billion, according to Forbes — is angling to finance his $43 billion bid to acquire Twitter in a complex deal that raises debt against both the company and possibly his own stock, as well as a giant cash equity infusion from co-investors, The Post has learned.
Still, insiders say Musk appears to be facing hurdles in raising the money. In addition to doubts about whether Twitter is worth the $54.20 a share that Musk offered on Thursday, sources said some investors appear skittish over his pattern of unpredictable behavior and taste for controversy.
Musk himself is willing to invest between $10 billion and $15 billion of his own cash to take Twitter private, two sources close to the situation said. That’s up from the current 9.1% stake in the company he revealed on April 4, which is worth about $3.4 billion.
Musk may also be willing to borrow against his current stake if necessary, a move that could possibly raise several billion additional dollars, sources said.
“The co-investors will combined have more equity than Musk but he will be the biggest single holder,” one of the sources said.
Nevertheless, it’s mainly outside financing that will carry the bid for Musk, who has tapped Morgan Stanley to raise another $10 billion in debt against Twitter in the manner of a traditional leveraged buyout, the sources said.
As first reported by The Post on Friday, however, the bulk of the money — about $20 billion, according to sources — will come from co-investors who will finance a hostile tender offer directly to Twitter shareholders, sources said. Musk hinted at the hostile approach in a cryptic tweet over the weekend that quoted Elvis Presley’s 1956 hit “Love Me Tender.”
Musk is planning to launch the tender offer for Twitter in 10 days or so, sources said. Still, insiders say Musk appears to be having more trouble than expected in finding backers.
According to a source, Musk’s Twitter bid is drawing interest from investors who have poured cash into his prior ventures, including Tesla and SpaceX. On the other hand, sources note that most private equity firms prefer to stay away from political controversies and worry that they will not be able to control Musk, according to a source briefed on the process.
Before disclosing his Twitter stake, Musk immediately began floating unusual ideas for the company including converting Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters into a homeless shelter. Musk also said Twitter might be “dying,” and even suggested scrapping its business model, which relies on selling ads.
Musk told Twitter’s board the social network “has potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe” — an approach that has unleashed speculation he would reinstate Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which was shut down following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
“Private equity firms don’t get paid for headline risk,” one source told The Post, referring to Musk’s taste for controversy.
Controversies aside, few private equity firms are willing to participate in a hostile bid, and Morgan Stanley is struggling to lure other banks to participate in the cash raise, sources said. Likewise, many appear doubtful whether Twitter is worth $43 billion, according to sources.
That’s despite the fact that Twitter on Friday adopted a so-called “poison pill” preventing Musk from acquiring more than 15 percent of the company, signaling that the price was too low.
“A lot of private equity firms are doing the work and struggling on the valuation,” a source said. “This is not growing like Instagram or TikTok.”
“You can only raise $10 billion of bank debt, and then maybe some preferred shares,” another source added, referring to a type of debt that can be converted to stock. “Twitter does not have a whole lot of cash flow.”
Time is tight, as Musk only began to make inquiries about financing a few days before he disclosed his stake, sources said. For his bid to succeed, he would have to win support from holders of a majority of Twitter stock to support a fully financed tender offer made directly to them. Then he could start a proxy contest trying to change the makeup of the board and remove the poison pill.
Twitter’s annual meeting is scheduled for May 25.
Meanwhile, The Post reported last week that private equity firm Thoma Bravo is exploring its own bid for Twitter, and Thoma Bravo has since reportedly told Twitter about its plans.
A Musk spokesman declined comment.