Saudi Prince and Crypto Billionaire Invest in Elon Musk’s Vision for Twitter

Elon Musk has assembled a team of investors including cryptocurrency exchange Binance, Qatar, a Saudi Prince, Web3-heavy venture capital firm a16z, and Sequoia Capital, according to SEC documents filed on Thursday.

The new disclosure lists 18 investors who will pool together more than $7 billion as part of a move by Musk to reduce the amount of loans taken out to finance the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter. The new funding will allow Musk to reduce the size of the initial $12.5 billion in debt financing backed by his Tesla shares to $6.25 billion.

When Musk first announced his purchase of Twitter, many seemed to believe that the world’s richest man had billions of dollars in cash stored away to make the purchase. As we’ve seen since then, however, what Musk really has is a lineup out the door of banks, investment firms, and monarchies ready to back his bid. 

The single largest investor is, ironically, Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal who has agreed to retain his Twitter stake and buy nearly 35 million shares for $1.89 billion. In mid-April, the prince initially rejected Musk’s bid to take Twitter private and Musk asked for the prince to elaborate “the Kingdom’s views on journalistic freedom of speech.” Oracle co-founder and Tesla board member Larry Ellison has agreed to contribute $1 billion. Venture capital firm Sequoia Capital is throwing in $800 million, Binance has pledged $500 million, a16z is offering $400 million, and Qatar’s investment fund is putting down $375 million.

Binance’s chief executive, Changpeng Zhao, referred to the contribution as “a small contribution to the cause” on Twitter shortly after its announcement. Ben Horowitz, an a16z co-founder, let off a fawning Twitter thread about his investment Thursday morning, writing that “We invested, because we believe in Ev and Jack’s vision to connect the world and we believe in Elon’s brilliance to finally make it what it was meant to be.” 

The investments might seem strange considering the acrimonious exchanges between Jack Dorsey and Zhao, Musk and Dorsey, and Dorsey and a16z’s co-founder Marc Andreessen, but ultimately all these parties are deeply committed to promoting crypto and pushing the public to adopt it. Musk’s company Tesla holds more than $1 billion in Bitcoin and one of his key promises for Twitter is to tackle the rampant bot networks on the site, most of which promote cryptocurrency scams. 

Binance is the world’s largest crypto exchange, operating as “its own vertically integrated crypto economy” that trades on its own platform and has come under scrutiny for outages that prevented trading during crypto market crashes and weak money-laundering checks on customers. Over at a16z, the crypto-centric venture capital firm has spent a good deal of money investing in its own media company (where the first post was on how financial speculation is good for society, actually), its own academic research team, and various crypto projects as part of a bid to convince the general public that this is the future.

The list of Musk’s investors should help free those laboring under the delusion that Musk is buying Twitter on moral principle. The Saudis and Qataris are not the greatest champions of free speech; the former assassinates critics and executes dissidents, the latter censors and punishes any speech it deems as against the national interest, such as coverage of migrant rights. And billionaires like a16z’s Andreessen may emphatically believe that handling billions of dollars of other people’s money doesn’t make you a capitalist or an elite, or that they are building the future, but it’s an exclusionary one incompatible with the dubious conception of Twitter being a public agora. 

They are just building a future designed and owned by themselves with their interests prioritized above all else. Nothing more, nothing less.

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