Billionaires: Elon Musk makes first acquisition for Twitter

In our fortnightly round-up of the world’s super wealthy, Britain's Ben Francis plans to expand his Gymshark brand and Google's Sergey Brin gifts $600 million in Alphabet shares

Twitter's Elon Musk has acquired tech talent recruiting service Laskie in a part-equity and part-cash deal. AFP
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Elon Musk

Elon Musk’s X Corporation, the parent company of Twitter, has made its first acquisition: a tech talent recruiting service called Laskie.

The deal, which was part-equity and part-cash, recently closed, a source said.

Laskie matches tech talent with potential employers, saying on its website that its tool can “confirm mutual interest, set clear expectations, and give visibility into the hiring process”.

The acquisition marks one of Mr Musk’s first major initiatives since the billionaire bought the social media service for $44 billion in October.

Most of Mr Musk’s moves since then have shrunk the service, from firing much of its staff to reducing its server footprint.

Watch: Elon Musk says pain of buying Twitter 'extremely high'

Elon Musk says pain of buying Twitter 'extremely high'

Elon Musk says pain of buying Twitter 'extremely high'

Mr Musk, who has appointed Linda Yaccarino as Twitter's chief executive to improve its reputation among advertisers, has said he plans to turn the service into an “everything app", with a variety of features to entice new users, including financial services.

It is unclear how Mr Musk plans to integrate Laskie into his holding company.

Last week, a message on the recruitment service's website said “the Laskie platform is no longer available”.

The company’s founder, Chris Bakke, is a prolific tweeter of viral jokes and commentary on the tech industry, with more than 140,000 followers, including Mr Musk.

Ben Francis

Ben Francis, the UK’s youngest billionaire, plans to open more physical stores for the Gymshark fitness wear brand that made his fortune.

The company is “looking at more” new stores, Gymshark’s founder and chief executive said.

“I don’t know what that looks like now, but these are conversations we’re going to be having over the next few weeks internally," he said.

The comments come after Mr Francis, 30, opened Gymshark’s first physical outlet on London’s Regent Street in October. The venue includes a gym, juice bar and hangout areas.

The company now operates across online and traditional retail platforms to sell items including £40 ($49.85) women’s leggings and £18 men’s T-shirts.

“We actually signed that deal at the height of Covid,” Mr Francis said of the London store.

“There was a lot of uncertainty, but it felt like the right thing to do given our long-term aspirations to build out a 100-year brand.”

World’s richest people aged 30 and under – in pictures

Mr Francis founded Gymshark in 2012 in his parents’ garage, near the company’s current headquarters in Solihull, England, while still a university student.

He relied on web sales to build the company.

Gymshark’s revenue reached £484.5 million in the year through to July 2022, according to registry filings.

US private equity company General Atlantic bought a 21 per cent stake in Gymshark in 2020 that valued the brand at more than £1 billion.

At the time, Mr Francis boosted his stake to about 70 per cent, which is worth about $1.2 billion based on the company’s internal pricing for its shares last year, making him the UK’s youngest billionaire, Bloomberg Billionaires Index showed.

Mr Francis said his business would continue to seek expansion in the US, which accounts for about half of his company’s sales, and ruled out any immediate plans for an initial public offering.

“In terms of IPOs, we’re not there yet. The main focus for us right now is building out the best brand we can,” he said.

Sergey Brin

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has gifted Alphabet shares worth about $600 million during a week in which his wealth grew the most in more than two years.

The gift, disclosed in a filing last Monday, does not specify who received the 5.2 million shares, which were evenly split between newly converted Class A stock and Class C stock.

They could be directed to a charity, or given to other financial vehicles or trusts.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on the filing.

Mr Brin and co-founder Larry Page saw their wealth surge by a combined $18 billion last week, their biggest gain since February 2021, after investor frenzy around artificial intelligence boosted Alphabet’s stock.

The day before his share gift, the California-based company announced a more conversational search engine and said it was making its AI-powered chatbot more broadly available.

Mr Brin’s net worth is now $104 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

His fortune, the ninth-highest in the world, is largely made up of a combination of Class B and Class C shares of Alphabet.

He has sold more than $10 billion worth of shares since the company’s IPO in 2004, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The stock gift follows a similar move by Mr Brin late last year, when he transferred about one million shares.

He also used some of his Alphabet stock to set up a new non-profit called Catalyst4, which focuses on health and climate change, although filings show the majority of its funding so far comes from Tesla shares sold near their peak in late 2021.

George Soros

George Soros’s investment company cut holdings in electric vehicle makers, slashing a stake in Rivian Automotive after a 90 per cent share decline and eliminating an investment in Tesla.

Soros Fund Management sold about 10.8 million shares of Rivian stock in the first quarter, reducing the market value of the stake to $55.4 million, according to a regulatory filing last week.

The remaining 3.6 million shares are about 1.1 per cent of Mr Soros’s roughly $5 billion US equities portfolio, which fell about $687 million in the first quarter.

The New York-based company also sold off its entire $16 million stake in Tesla, after taking a new stake during a big tech push in the second quarter of 2022.

The company trimmed other tech-related positions, including stakes in Alphabet, Amazon, Salesforce and Intuit.

Rivian declined about 90 per cent at the end of the year from its intraday peak in November 2021.

Mr Soros, 92, has an estimated net worth of $8.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

He has poured billions into his philanthropic efforts and has used his fortune to fund groups promoting democracy, human rights and progressive politics through his Open Society Foundations.

Most of his company's assets belong to the foundations rather than the Soros family.

Money managers overseeing more than $100 million in US equities have to file a 13F form within 45 days of the end of each quarter to list their holdings in stocks that trade on US exchanges.

It is one of the few places to gain insight into how hedge funds and some large family offices invest.

Updated: May 22, 2023, 5:00 AM