Elon Musk fired 80% of Twitter workforce but insists ‘we’re headed to a good place’

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Elon Musk said he has fired as much as 80% of the Twitter workforce since buying the company last year after confessing he only agreed to the takeover because a judge would have forced him to do so.

In a twisting and wide-ranging two-hour interview with the BBC, arranged just minutes in advance, the billionaire Tesla boss said staff numbers at the social media site had been slashed from just shy of 8,000 to around 1,500 in a bid to accelerate the firm’s drive to profitability, a move which he described as “painful” and “not fun at all.”

Musk said Twitter had been run “really like a non-profit…spending money like it was going out of fashion,” which had sparked a cashflow crisis that meant it had just “four months to live.”

The billionaire said the company was now breaking even and insisted advertisers were returning to the platform after they abandoned it in droves last year, but refused to give any examples of firms which had made a comeback.

“It’s not been boring. It’s been quite a rollercoaster,” he told the BBC, adding that the "pain level has been extremely high, this hasn’t been some kind of party".

He said it had been "really quite a stressful situation over the last several months…I sometimes sleep in the office.”

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Musk is still trying to coax back advertisers and encourage companies to pay for verified blue ticks, while facing accusations that it has become more toxic, and a space where firms might not want to advertise their wares.

“Musk says that they are returning, and the platform is now roughly breaking even, but given the Twitter purchase was such an expensive gamble, it’s clear his rollercoaster ride is still ongoing.’’

Musk reluctantly agreed to take Twitter private in October last year in a $44 billion deal. He had joined the board in April after building a significant stake in the company, and initially made the offer to acquire it before reneging on his proposal, citing concerns over the number of bots and troll accounts on the platform.

The Twitter board then began legal proceedings to force through the deal, driving Musk to sell a significant chunk of his Tesla stock to help fund his acquisition, as well as taking on billions of dollars in loans. Part of the social media giant’s cashflow burden relates to servicing this debt.

Despite reports that Twitter users have been frustrated at changes made to the site, Musk was adamant that traffic was increasing and said he would not be prepared to sell the social media site even if he were offered the same amount of cash he paid for it.

"Were there many mistakes made along the way? Of course. But all’s well that ends well, I feel like we’re headed to a good place."