Elon Musk in charge of Twitter, ousts top executives

Elon Musk is now in charge of Twitter, several outlets reported Thursday evening. There are reports the company's CEO and CFO have left the building. 

Associated Press reports their sources say three top leaders have been ousted. They include; the CEO, chief financial officer and the company's general counsel, two people familiar with the deal said. They said Musk has fired CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and General Counsel Vijaya Gadde. 

This comes one day ahead of the Tesla CEO's Friday deadline to close the on-again, off-again $44 billion deal with the social media company headquartered in San Francisco. His plan is to take the company private. 

A Delaware judge set Friday's deadline. She threatened to schedule a trial if no agreement was reached.

The major personnel moves are expected to be the first of many changes made by Musk, who says he can increase Twitter's subscriber base and revenue.

On Wednesday, Musk made a grand entrance at Twitter's Market Street headquarters. In dramatic fashion, he carried a sink into the lobby during his visit. He posted a video of his antics to the the micro-blogging site, accompanied by the words, "let that sink in."

Musk told advertisers on Thursday that he is buying the social media platform to "help humanity" and doesn't want it to be a free-for-all "hellscape."

He says he's buying the San Francisco company because he believes it's important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square. 

Musk's message to advertisers continued: "There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right wing and far left wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society."

The message reflects concerns among advertisers that Musk's plans to promote free speech by cutting back on moderating content on Twitter could render it more toxic and less welcoming for ads. Advertisers are Twitter's chief source of revenue.

Musk has previously expressed distaste for advertising and Twitter's dependence on it, suggesting more emphasis on other business models such as paid subscriptions that won't allow big corporations to dictate policy on how social media operates. But on Thursday, he assured advertisers he wants Twitter to be "the most respected advertising platform in the world."

But his note to advertisers struck a new tone from Musk. The note is a shift from Musk's position that Twitter is unfairly infringing on free speech rights by blocking misinformation or graphic content, said Pinar Yildirim, associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

But it's also a realization that having no content moderation is bad for business, putting Twitter at risk of losing advertisers and subscribers, she said.

"You do not want a place where consumers just simply are bombarded with things they do not want to hear about, and the platform takes no responsibility," Yildirim said.

CNET editor-at-large Ian Sherr joined KTVU on The Four just before news broke of Musk's Twitter takeover. "Supposedly the keys will be handed over after the money crosses the table and then what? I think a lot of us are really curious as to what he wants to do."

Sherr noted that in the past Musk himself has been an aggressive tweeter and that he has complained that he doesn't agree with the platform's moderation policies. Former President Donald Trump was infamously banned from the platform following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Musk has said he would reverse the ban on Trump if he were to purchase the company, calling it "morally wrong."

It was previously reported that Musk plans to eliminate 75% of the company's workforce, but this week, it was reported that Musk told staff during his visit, that news was not true. 

Musk's apparent enthusiasm about visiting Twitter headquarters this week stood in sharp contrast to one of his earlier suggestions: The building should be turned into a homeless shelter because so few of the company's 7,500 employees actually worked there.

Meanwhile, the drama of whether Musk would purchase the company, or try to back out of it, played out in drawn-out fashion. Sherr said this has contributed to the demoralization of Twitter employees during this fraught time. 

"It's hard to tell what's going to happen." Prior to the firings, Sherr said he couldn't imagine the morale getting any lower than over the last few months. "They've been trashed on Twitter by their new owner. They have been criticized endlessly. He said he wants to reverse a lot of their decisions. He doesn't know what he wants to do yet. He's throwing ideas at the wall."

Musk is expected to speak to Twitter employees directly Friday if the deal is finalized, according to an internal memo cited in several media outlets.

Despite internal confusion and low morale tied to fears of layoffs or a dismantling of the company's culture and operations, Twitter leaders this week have at least outwardly welcomed Musk's arrival and messaging.

Top sales executive Sarah Personette, the company's chief customer officer, said she had a "great discussion" with Musk on Wednesday and appeared to endorse his Thursday message to advertisers.

It remains to be seen if staff morale sinks even lower, or if this is a fresh start and a new chapter for the company that has called Mid-Market home for the last decade. 

By the conclusion of a dramatic day, Musk tweeted this referential one-liner: "the bird is freed."

Associated Press reporters Tom Krishner and Matt O'Brien contributed to this report.