By Elon Musk’s estimate, Twitter is worth around $20 billion ― less than half what he paid for it just five months ago.
That’s according to an internal email obtained by The Information, in which Musk laid out a new stock compensation plan for the relatively few employees remaining at the company, which he described as “an inverse start-up.”
As a private company, Twitter doesn’t have to make its financial figures public, so it’s impossible to verify the figure. An email from HuffPost seeking further comment was responded to with a “poop” emoji.
Twitter’s second largest shareholder, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk acquired the microblogging platform last October for $44 billion, acknowledging at the time he was “obviously overpaying” for the site. As part of the deal, the erratic billionaire forced Twitter to take on $13 billion in debt, requiring $1 billion in yearly interest payments alone.
But advertising revenue, which comprises the bulk of Twitter’s earnings, plummeted after Musk took over, thanks to a series of disastrous and sometimes comically inept decisions. More than half of Twitter’s top 1,000 advertisers have pulled their money from the platform since Musk’s acquisition.
A plan to offset lost advertising revenue by selling blue “verification” labels for $8 hit an early snag when users realized the company had stopped actually verifying users’ identities.
Chaos engulfed the platform while fake ― yet “verified” ― accounts proceeded to go viral.
The “verified” account of former President George W. Bush, for instance, tweeted, “I miss killing Iraqis,” while an account impersonating pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. tweeted, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now,” after which the real Eli Lilly’s stock dropped precipitously.
Twitter halted the chaotic rollout, then proposed businesses pay $1,000 a month for a new gold checkmark.
The company relaunched its blue checkmark sales program in December. But in its first three months, Twitter Blue only generated $11 million in mobile subscriptions, nowhere near enough to offset lost advertising revenue.
Musk hopes to see an uptick in subscriptions on April 1, when Twitter plans to sunset its “legacy” checkmark program completely. After that, a blue checkmark won’t denote anything except that the account pays Twitter $8 a month.
“Well this is going to be fun,” the verified account of Monica Lewinsky tweeted on Sunday, along with a screenshot of six other “Monica Lewinsky” accounts, one of them “verified.”
“In what universe is this fair to people who can suffer consequences for being impersonated?” She added. “A lie travels half way around the world before truth even gets out the door.”