Jack Dorsey dropped a massive hint suggesting that Twitter was considering an acquisition offer exactly one year ago — and that he turned it down.
Dorsey made the remarks to Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of advertising holding group WPP at the Dmexco conference in Germany. The pair appeared together in a fireside chat on Wednesday, almost exactly a year after Dorsey pulled out of a scheduled in-person appearance with Sorrell at Dmexco in 2016, for unknown reasons. Sorrell was forced to interview Dorsey via Skype from the stage instead.
At the time, there were rumours circulating that Disney or Salesforce was about to buy Twitter, but the deal never happened.
Sorrell — whose firm spends between $US125-$US225 million on Twitter annually — took the opportunity to grill Dorsey in person about the rumours and his absence last year.
Here’s their exchange:
Sorrell: “First question is: When we were speaking last year, you couldn’t come here. Why couldn’t you come here, what was the reason you couldn’t come to Cologne last year?”
Dorsey: “Uh, reasons, we had a lot of reasons.”
Sorrell: “Oh, don’t be coy. There were rumours at the time that somebody … might be interested in buying Twitter. Was that true?”
Dorsey: “There were certainly rumours, there were certainly rumours of a conversation.”
Sorrell: “And when we were talking in the green room, you did say it was your choice that did not go forward.”
It isn’t clear that Dorsey and Sorrell are specifically referring to Disney, Salesforce, or some other acquirer here. Sorrell added: “It would be fair to come to the conclusion that there are many people who would be interested in Twitter.”
Dorsey’s hint that he turned down an offer differs slightly from the public narrative. Reports last year suggested that Disney and Salesforce actually pulled out of acquisition talks because of Twitter’s harassment problem. Disney specifically worried that Twitter might taint its child-friendly brand image, according to the reports. Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff also killed rumours of a deal when he said Twitter “was not the right fit.”
Since those talks, Twitter has introduced lots of new measures to tack its troll problem. The service now hides abusive tweets from their subjects, safe search, and a stricter policy on identifying harassers.