In a text thread with Musk, Oracle founder Larry Ellison expressed interest in being part of a private Twitter deal.
“About what size in dollars?” Musk asked him.
Ellison replied, “A billion…or whatever you recommend.”
I’d like to talk about Larry Ellison’s ellipses.
This ellipsis is a casual piece of grammar. It’s used like using an ellipsis when you’re haggling with a guy on Craisglist over the price of his used NordicTrack and you’re still fifteen bucks apart.
“Whatever works for you,” Musk replied. “I would recommend maybe $2 billion or more.”
To which Ellison replied a few days later, “Since you think I should be in for at least $2 billion… I’m down for $2 billion.”
Another ellipsis. Three points representing the amount of time and thought it took Ellison to conclude that, based on Musk’s recommendation, he should offer not to $1 billion (the price of a Boeing plane), but $2 billion (Somalia’s gross national income).
Elon Musk’s text strings are a rare glimpse into how the world’s richest communicate with each other. How they think about money and power, which is definitely different from how you and I might think about money and power.
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At one point, an acquaintance of Musk suggests that he knows another guy who is interested in buying Twitter, Sam Bankman-Fried, the CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX.
“Do you have large amounts of money?” Musk asks.
“Depends on how you define ‘huge’!” answers the acquaintance. “It’s worth $24 billion and its first employees (with shared values) bring it up to $30 billion. I asked him how much I could contribute in principle and he said, “~1-3b would be easy ∼$3-8b could do ∼$8-15b is maybe possible but would require funding”.
Throughout the texts, you’ll find several mentions of words like “fun,” as when Ellison responds to Musk’s initial invitation to part with at least a billion dollars: “That would be a lot of fun.”
“Why don’t you buy Twitter?” German businessman Mathias Döpfner had suggested to Musk in March, the way a mother might suggest to her bored children that they go play outside. “It will be fun.”
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“I really hope you have Twitter,” Joe Rogan texted, the way a teenager might root for their best friend to get a game console. “If you do, we should have a big party.”
Elon Musk’s text strings are jaw-dropping, emoji-filled displays of carefree, casual wealth that make you realize that as much as you hope the world’s billionaires are soberly thinking about how to spend their money forever, these gentlemen more often than not just launch a cannon of cash in the direction of fellow billionaires who casually hit them on their private cell number.
I said “gentlemen,” which isn’t entirely fair. A handful of women appear in these texts: Larry Ellison’s assistant. A person named Martha, whose last name is crossed out but who appears to work for Twitter. Gayle King shows up repeatedly to ask Musk for a sit-down interview, a request she seems to mostly ignore.
But for the most part it’s the masters, not the mistresses, of the universe who goad Musk into buying Twitter because of the changes it might make or the fun everyone might have. “You have my sword,” promises businessman Jason Calicanas, as he tries to position himself as a trusted advisor while at the same time (I think?) referencing “Lord of the Rings.”
“Please do something to fight the awakening,” implored an acquaintance named “TJ,” whose last name is crossed out. “Are you going to rid Twitter of the happy mob of censorship?” Rogan asked.
The gender imbalance could explain why so many of these strings revolve around the idea that what Twitter needs most is fewer protections against platform toxicity. Freedom of expression on a social media platform means something different to rich and powerful men than it does to the average user, or more specifically, the average female user. For example, I’m pretty sure the rich/male experience of being criticized online includes far fewer messages from strangers declaring, “I’ll rape you.”
It is not yet clear how these text strings will be used in a court of law. But reading them, you realize you have no idea which side to support: the massive tech company or the small group of tech brothers who can take control in increments of $1 billion, or maybe $3 billion, but definitely no more than $8 billion emoji emoji lol.