Elon Musk, After Buying Twitter, Is Now Twitter’s Most-Followed User

If nothing else, $44 billion has bought Twitter power-user Elon Musk status as the No. 1 most-followed account on the social network.

As of Thursday morning, Musk had 133.088 million users — up more than 20% since he closed the Twitter deal last October. That pushed the billionaire ahead of the previously most-followed account, that of Barack Obama, who currently has about 133.042 million followers. (To be sure, this is according to the public counters operated by Twitter, which Musk controls.)

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Musk, a self-proclaimed free-speech “absolutist,” is notoriously fond of posting memes and jokes on Twitter. (Prior to his acquisition, according to Twitter’s legal team, Musk also used the service to disparage the company and its employees.) Musk has claimed he did not buy the company “to make more money” but to “try to help humanity, whom I love.” He also has said he was “obviously overpaying” for Twitter.

Under Musk, Twitter has been been radically altered. He has cut Twitter’s headcount by more than 70%, from 7,500 to below 2,000; reinstated many users banned under Twitter’s previous regime, including Donald Trump; and is eliminating Twitter’s legacy verification program as of April 1, at which point only paying subscribers will be eligible for blue check-mark badges.

Musk has said that given Twitter’s drop in ad revenue and additional debt payments it needs to make (on the roughly $12.5 billion in debt Musk required to close the transaction), the company was on pace to go bankrupt within four months. The situation required “immediate and drastic action,” Musk said earlier this month at the 2023 Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. With the layoffs and other cost reductions, Twitter has reduced its annualized burn rate to about $1.5 billion (excluding $1.5 billion in debt payments) down from $4.5 billion previously, while also executing “the fastest product evolution in Twitter’s history,” Musk said.

Musk is now No. 1 on Twitter, but he is no longer the wealthiest individual on Earth after the value of his Tesla stock holdings declined last year. The tech mogul is the second-richest person in the world (with a current net worth of $194.6 billion) behind luxury-brand mogul Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton ($219.8 billion), per Forbes’ billionaires index.

After Musk and Barack Obama, the most-followed Twitter accounts currently are Justin Bieber (113.3 million), Katy Perry (108.4 million), Rihanna (108.3 million), Cristiano Ronaldo (108.2 million) and Taylor Swift (92.5 million).

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