Elon Musk has offered to buy Twitter.
One of the world's richest men delivered a letter to the company with a proposal to acquire all outstanding shares of Twitter for $54.20 each, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission published Thursday.
The letter, delivered Wednesday, amounts to an offer to take Twitter private, a move that would give Musk greater control of the company. The offer values Twitter at more than $40 billion.
"I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy," Musk wrote in a letter to Bret Taylor, chairman of Twitter's board of directors, that was included in the SEC filing.
Musk confirmed the offer on Twitter.
The price of Twitter shares rose sharply in premarket trading Thursday morning, up about 11 percent to around $50 per share, before falling back later in the day and closing down 1.7 percent at $45.08.
Twitter said in a press release that it will consider Musk's bid.
"The Twitter Board of Directors will carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the Company and all Twitter stockholders," the company said.
The move comes after Musk first bought a major stake in Twitter in mid-March and later agreed to join its board of directors, a move that was quickly reversed in a matter of days.
Musk has been critical of Twitter's handling of its platform, most notably how it regulates what people are allowed to say on its service. Twitter has in recent years cracked down on misinformation, calls for violence, harassment and conspiracy theories. Those moves have been criticized by many Republican politicians and conservative commentators, particularly after Twitter banned then-President Donald Trump in January 2021.
"However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company," Musk added in the letter.
He said his offer is to buy all of Twitter.
"As a result, I am offering to buy 100% of Twitter for $54.20 per share in cash, a 54% premium over the day before I began investing in Twitter and a 38% premium over the day before my investment was publicly announced," Musk wrote. "My offer is my best and final offer and if it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder."
"Twitter has extraordinary potential," he added. "I will unlock it."
Hours later, though, Musk said he was open to less than complete ownership, telling a conference in Vancouver, Canada, that his intent was to retain as many shareholders as allowed by U.S. law in a private company. That limit is 2,000.
"It's definitely not from the standpoint of, 'Let me figure out how to monopolize or maximize my ownership of Twitter,'" Musk said during an on-stage interview at the TED2022 Conference.
At the conference, he sketched out a vision for Twitter that would mean looser rules around speech, including hate speech, and he said the company had become essential for democracy and humanity.
"Having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization," he said.
Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla and founder and CEO of SpaceX, is worth about $259 billion, according to Bloomberg's Billionaires Index.
The offer price — $54.20 — appeared to have a touch of Musk's characteristic internet-infused humor, playing on "420," a number associated with marijuana use that he's joked about before.
Daniel Ives, an analyst for Wedbush Securities, an investment and wealth management company, said on CNBC that there was little chance Twitter could reject the offer.
"This puts Twitter’s back against the wall ... there’s really no way that Twitter in my opinion could reject this," he said.
Twitter's moderation efforts have led to some efforts to create new platforms that have fewer rules, though platforms like Gab and Parler have had trouble gaining traction. Trump's own social media effort, Truth Social, has also struggled.
Twitter, meanwhile, remains one of the biggest social media platforms but has had its own challenges. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, Twitter failed to meet the business world's expectations for user growth and advertising revenue. Twitter currently counts around 217 million daily active users.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.