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Twitter Trial Paused Amid Efforts To Close $44B Deal With Elon Musk

The social media company sued the billionaire to complete the deal after he tried to back out.

Elon Musk's Twitter account on a mobile phone, in front of a Twitter logo
Billionaire Elon Musk has more than 100 million followers on Twitter.
James Martin/CNET

Billionaire Elon Musk and Twitter could be moving closer to closing a $44 billion deal. 

Twitter sued Musk in July after he tried to back out of buying the company for $54.20 per share. Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, the Delaware judge overseeing the case, on Thursday granted Musk's request to halt legal proceedings in the high-stakes battle. Twitter and Musk were scheduled to square off on Oct. 17 during a five-day trial in the Delaware Chancery Court. The trial is now on pause to give Twitter and Musk time to complete the deal by Oct. 28.

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The judge's ruling is the latest development in what has been a tumultuous transition period for Twitter. In a surprise twist this week, Musk's lawyer Mike Ringler on Monday sent a letter to Twitter stating that the billionaire intends to move forward with purchasing the company for the original offer price. Musk's lawyers then said in a motion on Thursday that there's no longer a need for a trial because the billionaire plans to close the deal. 

"Yet, Twitter will not take yes for an answer," Musk's lawyers said in the filing. "Astonishingly, they have insisted on proceeding with this litigation, recklessly putting the deal at risk and gambling with their stockholders' interests." 

Twitter's lawyers said in a letter that it opposes the motion."The obstacle to terminating this litigation is not, as Defendants say, that Twitter is unwilling to take yes for an answer," Twitter's lawyer Kevin Shannon wrote in the letter. "The obstacle is that Defendants still refuse to accept their contractual obligations." 

Musk said he intends to close the deal by Oct. 28, according to the filing. But Twitter said in its letter that they want Musk to arrange to close the deal on Oct. 10. The judge then ruled that if Musk and Twitter don't close the deal by Oct. 28, a trial will take place in November. 

The ongoing dispute between Twitter and Musk underscores the distrust that has built up between the billionaire and the company as they try to resolve their legal battle. 

Musk's hesitancy about purchasing Twitter has also created uncertainty about the social network's future. Musk has floated several ideas about changes he wants to make at Twitter, such as combatting cryptocurrency scams and tweaking the company's content moderation policies.

But Twitter employees and advocacy groups have raised concerns that changes he'll make will harm users who are dealing with harassment and hate speech on the platform. Musk has also said publicly he would reverse former US President Donald Trump's ban from the platform. Twitter and other social networks barred Trump from their services because of the risk of inciting violence after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot.

Twitter spokesman Brenden Lee said on Monday that the "intention of the company is to close the transaction at $54.20 per share."

Bloomberg, which first reported that Musk had offered to buy Twitter again at the original offer price, reported that Musk's legal team got the sense from the pretrial rulings that the case was not going well.

Twitter alleges in a lawsuit against Musk that the reason why the Tesla and SpaceX leader didn't want to buy the social network anymore is because his personal wealth has fallen. Musk, on the other hand, accused Twitter of misrepresenting or omitting information, including about the number of fake and spam accounts on its platform. 

Twitter's battle with Musk has been filled with unexpected twists. Twitter's former head of security Peiter "Mudge" Zatko filed a whistleblower complaint against the social media company, alleging that the platform prioritized making more money over user security. As part of the whistleblower complaint, Zatko also accused Twitter of lying to Musk about the number of spam bots on its platform. Twitter pushed back against the allegations, saying they were "riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and [lack] important context."

Musk said in a tweet on Tuesday that "Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app."

It's unclear what Musk means by an "everything app." In August, a Twitter user also asked if Musk thought about creating his own social media platform if the Twitter deal didn't go through. "X.com," Musk responded in a tweet.