By James Clayton in San Francisco and Peter Hoskins in Singapore
The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, has completed his $44bn (£38.1bn) takeover of Twitter, according to US media and an investor in the firm.
Mr Musk tweeted “the bird is freed”, an apparent reference to the deal.
A number of top executives, including the boss, Parag Agrawal, have reportedly been fired.
Mr Agrawal and two other executives were escorted out of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on Thursday evening, Reuters said.
The completion of the deal brings to an end months of legal wrangling, but the deal has prompted questions over the platform’s future direction.
Chief financial officer Ned Segal, and the firm’s top legal and policy executive, Vijaya Gadde, are leaving alongside Mr Agrawal, according to US media reports.
Meanwhile, Bret Taylor – who had served as Twitter’s chairman since last November – updated his LinkedIn profile to indicate that he was no longer in the post.
Mr Musk, a self-styled “free speech absolutist”, has been critical of Twitter’s management and its moderation policies.
They clashed over the terms of the takeover, with Mr Musk accusing Twitter of providing misleading information about the firm’s user numbers.
He has also said he would reverse bans on suspended users, which could include former US President Donald Trump, who was excluded following the Capitol riot in January 2021.
Twitter said there was a risk Mr Trump would incite further violence. But Mr Musk has described the ban as “foolish”.
It is not clear yet whether the clear out of senior management is the forerunner to company-wide job cuts. Earlier reports suggested 75% of staff at the social media company were set to lose their jobs, but those reports were “inaccurate”, Ross Gerber, president and chief executive of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management, and a shareholder in both Twitter and Mr Musk’s other company Tesla, told the BBC.
“There are a lot of talented people at Twitter, especially on the engineering side and they want to retain as much of that talent as possible,” Mr Gerber said.
“Really what they’re looking at from the trimming side is management [and] they’ve already started with upper management,” said Mr Gerber. He said cuts are then likely to extend to product managers “and products they’ve been working on that aren’t going anywhere”.
The social media platform’s shares will be suspended from trading on Friday, according to the New York Stock Exchange’s website.
Mr Musk said he bought the social media platform to help humanity and he wanted “civilisation to have a common digital town square”.
Earlier this week, Mr Musk tweeted a video of himself walking into Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco carrying a kitchen sink with the caption: “let that sink in!”
He also changed his Twitter profile to read “Chief Twit”.
On a recent earnings call, the Tesla owner said Twitter was “an asset that has just sort of languished for a long time, but has incredible potential, although obviously myself and the other investors are overpaying for Twitter right now”.
A long road
Mr Musk’s early investments in Twitter initially escaped public attention. In January, he began making regular purchases of shares, so that by the middle of March he had accumulated a 5% stake in the firm.
In April, he was revealed as Twitter’s largest shareholder, and by the end of the month, a deal was finally reached to buy the company for $44bn.
He said he planned to clean up spam accounts and preserve the platform as a venue for free speech.
But by mid-May Mr Musk, a prolific Twitter user, had begun to change his mind about the purchase, citing concerns that the number of fake accounts on the platform was higher than Twitter claimed.
In July, he said he no longer wished to acquire the company. Twitter, however, argued the billionaire was legally committed to the acquisition and eventually filed a lawsuit to hold him to the deal.
In early October, Mr Musk revived his takeover plans for the company on condition that legal proceedings were paused.
There has been no comment yet from Twitter about its new management team, but whoever becomes its next chief executive, it is clear that Mr Musk will ultimately be in charge of the company.
He fell out with Mr Agrawal in early April – when he sat briefly on Twitter’s board.
In private messages revealed in court filings, Mr Musk talked about how Mr Agrawal didn’t understand how to fix the social media platform’s problems.
It appears now Mr Musk is at the helm, many people who have been banned for hate speech or disinformation may be invited back to the platform.
Mr Musk has described the decision to exclude former US President Donald Trump as “foolish” and said he would reverse it.
Mr Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter in January 2021 following the attack by his supporters on the Capitol building in Washington which resulted in the deaths of five people. Twitter said it wanted to avoid the risk that his tweets would incite further violence.
Mr Trump has insisted he won’t be reactivating his account – preferring instead to post on his own platform Truth Social.
Mr Musk has posted that his plans for Twitter include “X, the app for everything”.
Some suggest this might be something along the lines of the hugely successful Chinese app WeChat, a kind of “super app” that incorporates different services including messaging, social media, payments and food orders.
Additional reporting by Chris Vallance