Former science magazine editor explains the 'key indicators' of an Elon Musk hostile takeover bid and how his company handled one: 'Don't panic'
- Conrad Quilty-Harper was a digital editor at the New Scientist magazine when Elon Musk considered buying it.
- In an op-ed, he highlighted the early signs of a Musk "hostile takeover" bid, including cryptic tweets and DMs.
A former digital editor of the New Scientist magazine has shared his first-hand experience of how the company handled a takeover offer from Elon Musk, the world's richest person.
"Barbarians at the gate? Try billionaire in the DMs," Conrad Quilty-Harper wrote in an op-ed for Bloomberg published last week.
Quilty-Harper, who currently works as a digital editor for the outlet, wrote that Musk's recent "unsolicited bid" to buy Twitter was a "triggering event" that had him recalling the events surrounding the billionaire's 2019 offer to purchase New Scientist.
Here's how the offer unfolded: On April 5, 2019, Musk tweeted at New Scientist, telling the publication to fix its paywall.
"Your content is great, but your paywall is not," Musk wrote. "I think I've paid for a subscription at least three times, but your paywall keeps forgetting this."
The billionaire's followers then tweeted suggestions that he buy the publication himself. In response, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO seemed to consider the recommendations, before casually tweeting minutes later: "How much is it?"
"Ultimately, a deal didn't happen — though the company was later sold to the Daily Mail Group for about 70 million pounds ($92 million)," Quilty-Harper wrote. "But Musk's offer sent management scrambling over how to respond."
He wrote that the experience had taught him the "key indicators" that signal an impending "hostile takeover" bid from Musk.
"The early warning sign of an impending buyout offer from Musk is that he's following your account. Is he @-ing you with cryptic tweets? Does he DM you?" Quilty-Harper wrote.
He added that the next step is to stay calm.
"If Musk tweets that he wants to buy your company, don't panic," Quilty-Harper wrote. "Good advice in any circumstance. Particularly one where the fate of your company rests on the whims of the world's richest man — with a Twitter following of 81.7 million — who seems to enjoy chaos."
Quilty-Harper also advised companies in similar positions to trust their social media manager — whom he described as "the most important person in your entire corporation" — and get an "emoji game plan" in place.
He also suggested that replying with an emoji could strike the "right balance" between taking the offer seriously while offsetting embarrassment if the offer turns out to be a joke.
Quilty-Harper added that it was also important to be "concise" in one's response, referring to New Scientist CEO Nina Wright's response, which was posted within half an hour of Musk's offer.
—Nina Wright (@ninatweets) April 5, 2019
Wright's tweet didn't appear to have deterred Musk, who responded: "Hi Nina! So … how many £ would it take? Just between us."
Quilty-Harper's last piece of advice? Don't take the process too seriously.
"Musk never bought New Scientist, and as he acknowledged Thursday, he may never buy Twitter. So it's best to respond carefully while taking any offer with a large grain of salt," he wrote.
Musk said on Thursday that he has secured the funding needed for a tender offer to purchase Twitter.
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