By BARBARA ORTUTAY, TOM KRISHER and MATT O’BRIEN

Elon Musk has taken control of Twitter and ousted the CEO, chief financial officer and the company’s top lawyer, two people familiar with the deal said Thursday night.

The people would not say whether all the paperwork for the deal, originally valued at $44 billion, had been signed or if the deal had been closed. But he said Musk is in charge of the social media platform and has fired CEO Parag Aggarwal, CFO Ned Segal and chief legal counsel Vijay Gude. Neither person wanted to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the deal.

A few hours later, Musk tweeted, “The bird has been set free,” a reference to Twitter’s logo.

The departure came just hours before a deadline set by a Deloitte judge on Friday to finalize the deal. She threatened to sue if no deal was reached.

Although they came quickly, the major personnel moves were widely expected and are almost certainly the first of many big changes Tesla’s CEO will make.

Before deciding to make a bid for the company, Musk had a private spat with Agarwal in April, according to text messages that later emerged in court filings.

Around the same time, he took to Twitter to criticize Gude, the company’s top lawyer. After his tweets, other Twitter accounts started harassing Gude. For Gedde, an 11-year Twitter employee who is also the head of public policy and safety, the harassment included calls for Musk to be fired, as well as racist and profanity-laced attacks. On Thursday, after she was fired, the harassing tweets resurfaced.

Musk’s changes are aimed at increasing Twitter’s user base and revenue.

In his first major move earlier Thursday, Musk tried to convince Twitter advertisers that he was buying the platform to help humanity and didn’t want it to be a “hellscape for freedom.” Become

The message appears to be aimed at allaying concerns among advertisers — Twitter’s main source of revenue — that Musk’s plans to promote free speech by cutting back on content moderation could open the floodgates to more online toxicity. will and alienate users.

“The reason I acquired Twitter is because the future of civilization requires a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be discussed in a healthy way, without resorting to violence,” he said. Musk wrote an unusually long one. A message for Tesla’s CEO, who usually delivers his thoughts in one-line tweets.

He continued: “There is a huge danger now that social media will split into far-right and far-left echo chambers that will further hate and divide our society.”

Musk has previously expressed distaste for advertising and Twitter’s reliance on it, suggesting a greater emphasis on other business models such as paid subscriptions that let large corporations dictate how social media works. will not allow. But on Thursday, he assured advertisers that he wants Twitter to be “the most respected advertising platform in the world.”

Pinar Yıldırım, associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said the note is a shift from Musk’s position that Twitter is violating free speech rights by blocking misinformation or graphic content.

But there’s also a realization that not moderating content is bad for business, putting Twitter at risk of losing advertisers and subscribers.

“You don’t want a place where users are just bombarded with things they don’t want to hear about, and the platform takes no responsibility,” Yildirim said.

Musk said Twitter should be “warm and welcoming to everyone” and enable users to choose the experience they want to have.

The Delaware Chancery Court had set a Friday deadline to close the deal in early October. It’s the latest phase of a battle that began in April when Musk signed a deal to acquire Twitter, then tried to back out, leading to Twitter suing the Tesla CEO. was filed to compel him to acquire. If the two sides don’t meet Friday’s deadline, the next step could be a November trial in which a judge could force Musk to complete the deal.

But Musk is signaling that a deal is coming. He strolled into the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Wednesday with a porcelain sink, changed his Twitter profile to “Chief Tweet” and tweeted “Twitter is entering HQ — let it sink in!”

And overnight the New York Stock Exchange notified investors that it would suspend trading in Twitter shares ahead of Friday’s opening bell in anticipation of the company going private under Musk.

Musk is expected to speak directly with Twitter employees on Friday if the deal goes through, according to an internal memo cited by multiple media outlets. Despite internal turmoil and low morale linked to fears of layoffs or a disruption of the company’s culture and operations, Twitter leaders this week have at least ostensibly welcomed Musk’s arrival and messaging.

Top sales executive Sarah Personett, the company’s chief customer officer, said she had a “great discussion” with Musk on Wednesday and seemed to confirm his Thursday message to advertisers.

Personnet tweeted Thursday, “Our continued commitment to brand safety for advertisers remains unchanged. “Looking forward to the future!”

Musk’s apparent enthusiasm for visiting Twitter’s headquarters this week was in stark contrast to one of his earlier suggestions: that the building should be turned into a homeless shelter because so few employees worked there.

The Washington Post reported last week that Musk told potential investors he plans to lay off three-quarters of Twitter’s 7,500 workers when he takes over the company. The newspaper cited documents familiar with the debate and unnamed sources.

Musk has spent months mocking Twitter’s “spambots” and making sometimes contradictory pronouncements about Twitter’s problems and how to fix them. But he has shared some concrete details about his plans for the social media platform.

Thursday’s note to advertisers shows a new emphasis on ad revenue, specifically requiring Twitter to provide more “relevant advertising” — which generally means targeted ads that collect users’ personal information. And rely on analyzing them.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter has not been good at targeting ads that users want to see, Yildirim said. He said Musk’s message shows he wants to fix it.

Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst at Inside Intelligence, said Musk has good reason to avoid a major overhaul of Twitter’s ad business as Twitter’s revenue continues to falter in the months surrounding Musk’s proposed takeover, amid a weakening economy. Uncertainty, changing consumer behavior and the fact that “there is no. Another source of income waiting in the wings.

“A slight loosening of content moderation on the platform is sure to scare away advertisers, many of whom already find Twitter’s brand safety tools to be lacking compared to other social platforms,” ​​Enberg said. “