Elon Musk tried to use World War III as an excuse to stall Twitter deal: report
Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk (pictured December 2020) (AFP)

On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that tech billionaire Elon Musk privately tried to use the possibility of World War III as an excuse to delay his controversial and ill-fated deal to buy Twitter, which is now being intensely litigated as he attempts to back out of the enterprise.

Publicly, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has claimed that the reason he called off the deal was that Twitter had lied to him about the number of fake accounts that were active on the site.

"The eyebrow-raising texts were revealed by Twitter on Tuesday in a hearing at Delaware Chancery court, with the social-media giant seeking to argue that Musk’s repeated attempts to walk away from the $44 billion deal due to concerns about bots on the site were 'all pretext,'" reported Dan Ladden-Hall.

"In a message sent from the SpaceX tycoon to Morgan Stanley banker Michael Grimes sent on May 8 — weeks after Musk agreed to buy Twitter and Putin invaded Ukraine — Musk wrote: 'Let’s slow down just a few days. Putin’s speech tomorrow is extremely important. It won’t make sense to buy Twitter if we’re heading into world war three,'" said the report. "Twitter’s lawyers referred to the last sentence as the 'money quotation.'"

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Musk, who originally negotiated the Twitter deal to public fanfare and promises to reform the social media giant's policies to allow for greater free expression on the platform, could be on the hook for honoring the $44 billion agreement in full if Twitter wins the lawsuit.

Many observers have theorized that Musk does not actually care about spam bots and is only using this as an excuse to legally void the contract, and in fact he hasn't even provided any evidence for his claim that Twitter lied about their bot statistics. Rather, the possible real reason he is backing out could be that he can't actually afford the deal; a huge portion of his wealth comes from the value of Tesla shares, and that he could only buy the company by borrowing against those shares — which would reduce their value to the point the self-loan wouldn't work.

Musk suffered a blow in court on Wednesday after a judge in Delaware refused to grant his request to delay the trial.