Solomon: Musk Is Playing Snakes and Ladders and the Losers Will Keep On Losing


I was never really into board games as a kid, but, for whatever reason, my mom liked Snakes and Ladders.

If I had to explain the game to a space alien, I’d just say you roll the dice, ladders take you up, snakes take you down.

So, pretty much like trying to buy Twitter.

Today was a perfect day for Elon Musk, if we define “perfect” as hundreds of millions of people around the world watching his every move, thereby fulfilling what at least appears to be a borderline sociopathic need for attention.

In case you missed it (ICYMI, as the cool kids write), the Twitter deal is back on, if we define “back on” as back on for at least the rest of the afternoon. Things evolve quickly in Snakes and Ladders.

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Today’s ladder, for both Musk and Twitter, is that he has agreed not to back out of the Twitter deal and to complete the purchase of the company on the exact terms that had been previously agreed upon.

There are many more snakes to come here.

The $54.20 share price for Twitter stock that Musk agreed to today for the second time makes sense only as long as it makes sense. When it doesn’t make sense for Musk to honor that $54.20 = $44 billion deal math, he simply won’t because the law and contracts are seen by the most ethereal level of the technorati as fungible things. Translated into English for the rest of us, Big Tech sees itself as too big to fail and too powerful to regulate.

Was and is $54.20 a fair share price for both Twitter and Musk?

Is $54.20 a fair share price for Twitter?

The answer is that it’s as eminently fair as any price a buyer and seller agree upon for everything and anything in a free market society. It’s as fair as a $378,000 house that both sides sign off on in a purchase and sale agreement, and it’s as fair as that $5 bag of Cheetos from which shrinkflation has removed many of the Cheetos, as no one is forcing you to buy it.

We also won’t have any new share prices in real time today, as trading on Twitter shares was halted upon the news that the deal is back on.

Twitter share trading was halted at 12:13 New York time. At 12:05, just before the news broke, the share price was $42.93. Eight minutes later, the share price was $47.93. Had trading not been halted, it’s conceivable that the share price could have eclipsed the $54.20 mark, but that it didn’t today doesn’t actually matter at all.

What Musk again demonstrated to the world today, in what is both deeply poetic and a little Dr. Evil, is a profound understanding of how to manipulate stock prices. The price of Twitter shares, whether or not Musk actually ends up owing the company, will be exactly at the level he wants it to be. Anyone who still doubts this needs to pay closer attention.

For anyone looking for a more profound understanding of why today went the way it did — why Musk did his most recent 180 — keep moving; there’s nothing to see here.

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This is both an ego-driven move to be the subject of the top business stories in the entire world this afternoon and the result of perfect calculus to extract the best deal possible for himself and others, as exemplified in what The Washington Post, borrowing from Milan Kundera, described as the “unbearable lightness” of his text messages to other tech elites.

For us regular folks, we just see how deeply gamed these massive tech companies actually are and how the losers will always be us users.

That’s really the lesson of the day: that both Twitter and Musk will win no matter how the next days and weeks unfold. The only real question is how big a pie Twitter can become when it is eventually consumed.

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A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the chief legal analyst for Esquire Digital and 24-7 Abogados. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Solomon has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, the Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo, ABA Journal,, The Boston Globe, NewsBreak and many other leading publications.