News that modern-day Howard Hughes and engineering genius Elon Musk had acquired Twitter lit up the internet Monday, with critics expressing skepticism and fans taking victory laps.
While reports of pity parties and celebrations were front and center, lost in the drama was the fact that Musk had been meeting with Twitter shareholders in the days leading up to the sale. In fact, pressure from shareholders may have been the tipping point, according to a report from Reuters.
Many Twitter shareholders reached out to the company after Musk outlined a detailed financing plan for his bid on Thursday and urged it not to let the opportunity for a deal slip away, Reuters reported earlier on Sunday.
Interestingly, Republican Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis commented on the sale onTwitter itself, and noted a shareholder benefit in his tweet.
@elonmusk’s offer to buy Twitter is a good deal for shareholders and raises the prospect that the platform will be a place where free speech can thrive, not a tool for narrative enforcement.
What makes DeSantis’ nod toward shareholders intriguing is the fact that, the week prior, he and his state had been in the crosshairs over a decision to strip Disney of special tax privileges in Florida due to the company’s aggressive and overt virtue signaling over Parental Rights legislation the state passed to prevent gender ideology instruction for very young children attending Florida schools.
The media framed DeSantis’ decision in political terms: was it discriminatory toward the LGBTQIA+ community? Was it the agenda of the so-called “new right” asking for state retaliation against corporations who refuse to toe the preferred political party line? Was it simply DeSantis making waves before a presidential run in 2024?
Musk’s decision to buy Twitter was also framed by some in the media as a political ploy to control speech rather than free it.
But Ed Rensi, former president and CEO of McDonald’s USA, might have a different take on the Musk and DeSantis moves. He’s recently partnered with Job Creators Network Foundation (JCNF), Free Enterprise Project, and Second Voteto lead what they’re calling The Boardroom Initiative to “defend shareholders, employees, and communities from ‘woke’ policies at corporations and ensure corporate accountability.”
“Our number one duty is to increase shareholder value, and make a profit for shareholders,“ Rensi told Townhall. “When you get off on these tangents of social engineering, your sales are going to go down. We want to make sure no one is neglected or discriminated against, whether you’re in the minority or the majority.”
The thought of an elite minority that is powerful, vocal, and determined enough to subvert the collective will of average Americans preoccupies Rensi, who will serve as the Executive Chairman of the Initiative. He has been inspired, he says, by a fresh read of The Federalist Papers and his recollection of the Founders fear of tyranny by the minority.
“Our government has been held in check by the voting booth and the news media” in the past, says Rensi. But, at least for now, those days are in the rearview mirror. And Rensi says initiatives like his are necessary to fill the gap.
The Boardroom Initiative intends to “fight back against woke capitalism and empower shareholders and employees” while working “to realign corporations with their core business goals through shareholder proposals, advancing viewpoint diversity on company boards, and utilizing digital channels to spread awareness of [the] mission.”
“I have served on the board of McDonald’s Corporation, Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que, Great Wolf Resorts, Snap-on Inc., JAFRA, and a few others,” said Mr. Rensi. “In every case those board members adhered to best practices for the benefit of the shareholders and the public good. Serving a vocal minority out of ignorance is absolutely unacceptable. When public companies take sides in political debates, it is to the detriment of company shareholders…The Boardroom Initiative, among other things, will take this fight directly into the boardroom by giving shareholders the tools to win the fight through shareholder proposals.”
The Boardroom Initiative’sfirst proposalwill be voted on by Bank of America’s board on April 26, 2022.
Rensi says he has taken an interest in both the DeSantis battle with Disney and Musk’s negotiation with Twitter and suggested they both may ultimately share a common, positive end with the Boardroom Initiative. He recalled a lunch meeting he had with the great conservative economist Milton Friedman in 1996 in which the two men discussed the nexus of charity and business.
“[Friedman} told me, ‘young man, it is not the not the province of board members or executives to take shareholder profit and put it into charities or policies they like; it should be reinvested in the company for the benefit of the stockholders,” Rensi said.
Inadvertently or not, DeSantis and Musk may be promoting the same rule of good corporate governance Rensi learned from the mouth of Milton Freidman himself: In business, what’s good for the shareholder is good for the company.