“Only over my dead body”: Elon Musk on Twitter allegedly against payment of rent

Six ex-Twitter employees want to fight for guaranteed severance pay in court. Their reports provide a behind-the-scenes look after the takeover.

After his Twitter takeover, US billionaire Elon Musk had it declared internally that rents were “only paid over my dead body”. And whether contractually due payments are made would be decided on a case-by-case basis, because the richest man in the world works on a “zero-cost basis”.

At least that’s what six former Twitter employees who want to fight for the payment of the promised severance pay in a court claim. The lawsuit, which has now been published by the New York Times, among others, gives a look behind the scenes at the particularly chaotic weeks after Musk’s Twitter takeover. The plaintiffs are six former high-ranking Twitter employees who together have worked for the social network for 60 years.

“Bedrooms” at Twitter headquarters

The group around Joseph Kilian, who was responsible for the construction and design of the office space on Twitter, accuses Elon Musk of not paying the severance payments that have been promised several times that they are contractually entitled to. In the lawsuit, they describe sometimes chaotic conditions on Twitter, where people who were not even officially employed gave them instructions that were sometimes illegal. This explains how Musk’s team wanted to set up “hotel rooms” in the Twitter headquarters. The rooms, quickly renamed “bedrooms,” were intended to allow employees to sleep, which would have violated building codes. He should have kept this a secret from the responsible supervisory authorities.

Killian reports initially “simple and unorthodox” changes that were already public knowledge. Conference tables have been replaced by beds. However, he was later instructed to prepare further changes, including the installation of bathrooms. When he pointed out that the necessary permits would take time, he was told, “We don’t do that, we don’t have to follow the rules”. Noting that licensed handymen would not undertake such work, he said he was hired to hire an unlicensed plumber. His suggestion that this would be a violation of the lease was also pushed aside.

Another point of contention with the new managers was the rents. Before the takeover, Twitter’s premises around the world cost 130 million US dollars per year. The new management complained that it was five times as much as Musk’s space company SpaceX, even though ten times as many people worked there. But Twitter had also laid off most of the workforce. Internally, however, Musk’s lawyer also stated that it would be “unreasonable” to pay rent in San Francisco at all, the city is a “shithole”. It became clear that Musk wanted to receive services without paying for them. Killian was told Musk had decided Twitter would pay rent “over my dead body.”

Musk makes fun of allegations

The lawsuit (Ref. 1:23-cv-00528-UNA) is being heard in the US District Court in Delaware. On Twitter, Musk described one of the claims as “absurd”. He is accused of having commissioned the installation of a toilet next to his Twitter office because he did not want to wake his security team to go to the bathroom at night. If they were asleep, that would be a much greater concern for him, Musk writes. He said nothing about the allegations that his team did not feel bound by agreements. Meanwhile, his lawyer has written a letter to Microsoft because the company is said to have violated an agreement to access Twitter.

Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion last fall. Since then, Twitter has had to pay some of the money back to the banks involved in the financing. After the takeover, Musk laid off thousands of employees and implemented some rigorous austerity measures. It was already known that various bills were not paid and rents were not transferred. The social network reportedly even refused to pay for Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud services. Several lawsuits have already been filed against Twitter because of the outstanding rent.


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