Twitter’s board has accepted a roughly $44bn offer to sell the company to Elon Musk, handing control of the influential social media platform to the world’s richest man.

Announcing the deal, Musk said “free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy” and described the social media platform as “the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated”.

Twitter shareholders will receive $54.20 in cash for each share of Twitter common stock that they own upon closing of the transaction. The purchase price represents a 38 per cent premium to the company’s closing price on April 1, the day before Musk announced he had amassed a 9 per cent stake in the company.

Musk said he wanted to make Twitter “better than ever” by introducing new features, making its algorithms open source, stamping out bots and authenticating “all humans”.

He added: “Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

After Musk first made his offer for the platform on April 14, Twitter launched a poison pill to limit his ability to build a substantial shareholding. But the board was forced to the negotiating table at the weekend after he unveiled a $46.5bn financing package for the deal.

“The Twitter Board conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon’s proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing,” said Bret Taylor, Twitter chair.

He added: “The proposed transaction will deliver a substantial cash premium, and we believe it is the best path forward for Twitter’s stockholders.”

If completed, the deal would be one of the largest leveraged buyouts on record — a feat that few on Wall Street thought possible given the size of the transaction.

Republicans are hopeful that the deal could pave the way for Donald Trump to return to the platform after the former president was banned for repeatedly breaching its rules around hate speech and misinformation.

“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” Musk tweeted earlier on Monday.

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