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Court Documents: Politico Boss Offered to Run Twitter for Musk

Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner made a generous offer to Elon Musk before his Twitter buyout.

Elon Musk Awarded With Axel Springer Award In Berlin
SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses next to Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 01, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images)

Elon Musk’s attorney, Skadden litigation partner Edward B. Micheletti, certified on Wednesday that a database of text messages was shared with the legal teams on both sides of the billionaire’s Twitter suit. In court documents, Musk appears to have engaged in noteworthy dialogues with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner in March and April of this year. Axel Springer owns American media companies Politico and Business Insider and German media outfits such as Bild, Die Welt, and Fakt.

A short exchange between the executives from March 30 reads thus:


Döpfner: Why don’t you buy Twitter? We run it for you. And establish a true platform of free speech. Would be a real contribution to democracy.

Musk: Interesting idea

Döpfner: I’m serious. It’s doable. Will be fun.

On April 4, the SEC published a filing that disclosed Musk’s 9.2 percent stake in the social media giant. Döpfner contacted Musk on the same day:

Döpfner: Congrats to the Twitter invest! Fast execution [open mouth smiley face emoji] Shall we discuss wether [sic] we should join that project? I was serious with my suggestion.


Musk: Sure, happy to talk

Döpfner: I am going to miami [sic] tomorrow for a week. Shall we speak then or Wednesday and take it from there ?

Musk: Sure

On April 6:

Döpfner: A short call about Twitter?

Döpfner then shared his vision for the company in a “Game Plan” text, in which he suggests that Twitter be made “censorship-FREE” by requiring that

“Twitter users agree to: (1) Use our service to send spam or scam users, (2) Promote violence, (3) Post illegal pornography. [upside down smiley face emoji]”

Musk did not reply to that message.

On April 14:

Döpfner: Our editor of Die Welt just gave an interview why he left Twitter. What he is criticising is exactly what you most likely want to change. I am thrilled to discuss twitters [sic] future when you are ready. So exciting.

Musk: Interesting!

It’s worth considering who the “we” is in Döpfner's offer to Musk to “run it for [him].” It's possible that Döpfner was referring to his parent company Axel Springer. When Döpfner became CEO of the publishing house last year, the Journal reported that Döpfner expects his employees at Politico to adhere to certain political principles including “a united Europe, Israel’s right to exist and a free-market economy, among others.” The article went on: “'These values are like a constitution, they apply to every employee of our company,' Mr. Döpfner said. People with a fundamental problem with any of these principles 'should not work for Axel Springer, very clearly,' he said.”

Had Musk accepted Döpfner’s offer, could Twitter users have questioned Döpfner’s preferences? Would his public support for NATO have overcome his private, albeit probably sarcastic, support for free speech absolutism in the form of violence and illegal pornography?