SAN FRANCISCO — Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey issued his sharpest criticism yet of Elon Musk’s leadership of Twitter Friday, saying Musk has not proven to be the platform’s ideal steward — and should have walked away from buying the site.
The criticisms and explanations came in a series of reply posts Friday night on the fledgling social network Bluesky, a potential Twitter rival that Dorsey helped to start. The remarks illustrate how Musk’s erratic leadership has disillusioned a one-time friend and powerful ally, reflecting a growing backlash against a tumultuous tenure that has sent advertisers fleeing and users searching for alternatives.
Dorsey said he thought Musk, the Tesla CEO who serves in the same role at Twitter today, should have paid $1 billion to back out of the deal to acquire the social media platform. The comments are a stark reversal from Dorsey’s strong endorsement of Musk’s takeover, when he wrote a year ago that if Twitter had to be a company at all, “Elon is the singular solution I trust.”
“I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness,” Dorsey tweeted at the time.
In his remarks on Bluesky Friday, Dorsey struck a far different tone.
What to know about Bluesky, the new alternative to Twitter
Dorsey said he didn’t think Musk “acted right” after pursuing the site and realizing his potential mistake, adding that he did not believe the company’s board should have forced the sale.
“It all went south,” Dorsey added.
Musk did not respond to a request for comment on Dorsey’s remarks. Musk appeared on Friday night’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” on HBO, and spoke on topics including his time in charge of the company, a recent meeting with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), and his concerns about rhetoric coming from the political left.
“It was on a fast track to bankruptcy,” Musk said of Twitter. “So I had to take drastic action. There wasn’t any choice.”
Musk took over Twitter in October after amassing a sizable stake in the company in early 2022, accepting — then reneging on — a board seat, and ultimately mounting a hostile takeover attempt in April. He offered $54.20 per share, valuing the company at $44 billion.
The Twitter board accepted Musk’s buyout by late April, commencing a deal that would take the company private. The terms of the deal included a $1 billion penalty, known as a “breakup fee,” should Musk decide to back out.
(Experts have noted Musk could have owed an amount well beyond the $1 billion fee if he broke the agreement.)
Soon after the agreement, Twitter’s valuation fell significantly as economic pressures weighed heavily on the company and Tesla’s stock, the latter sharply reducing Musk’s net worth. Musk announced his intention to back out of the deal, and Twitter sued Musk to force him to complete the acquisition.
After a months-long court battle, which included a countersuit by Musk, Musk and Twitter agreed to proceed with the deal in October, which was finalized later that month for $44 billion.
Musk’s tenure as Twitter boss has been marked by steep job cuts, an intense work environment and a wholesale overhaul of the site’s user experience. Twitter has leaned heavily into a subscription model and curated feeds that aim to show users content with which they are more like to engage. Since Musk’s takeover, Twitter’s staff has been reduced by around 80 percent.
Dorsey previously apologized for growing the company “too quickly” after Musk embarked on layoffs that reduced the company by around 50 percent. Since then, he has criticized Musk’s decision-making at times, taking to Twitter to express his disagreement with Musk’s renaming of the site’s “Birdwatch” feature to “Community Notes,” for example.
Dorsey rolled over his $1 billion stake in Twitter into Musk’s privatized Twitter, The Post previously reported.
In his posts on Friday, Dorsey did not take responsibility for Musk’s acquisition of the company, arguing that “every company is for sale to the highest bidder” and the board had no choice but to accept his offer.
“Was I optimistic? Yes,” Dorsey said. “Did I have the final say? No.”
Once Musk tried to back out, Dorsey added, “I wish the board would not have forced the sale. Maybe there was a chance, but now we’ll never know.” As for Musk’s decision to ultimately complete the purchase rather than pay a $1 billion penalty to terminate it, Dorsey said, “I think he should have walked away and paid the $1b.”
Bluesky is part of a project, initiated by Dorsey when he was still Twitter’s CEO, to build a “decentralized” social media system, in which no single person or company controls the experience. While Twitter has invested in Bluesky, it is now a separate company with its own CEO. In recent days, it has been rapidly attracting high-profile Twitter users, some of whom have become disenchanted with the platform under Musk.
Responding to a post in which a user said “It’s pretty sad how it all went down,” Dorsey replied simply: “Yes.”