On Wednesday at 10am PST, the online auction of 631 corporate paraphernalia objects culled from Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, first announced several weeks ago, drew to a close, producing lucrative results: the top lot, an electric neon wall display shaped like the Twitter logo, went for $35,500. A statue of the logo sold for $32,500, while an “@” shaped sculpture planter fetched $13,000.
The bulk sale, facilitated by Heritage Global Partners, came about in the wake of billionaire Elon Musk’s high-profile, majorly divisive takeover last October, which has already resulted in approximately 3,700 former employees at the company being laid off as part of Musk’s cost-cutting plans, a steep drop in revenue, which Musk blamed on “activist groups pressuring advertisers” and reports that Twitter is skipping out on paying rent for its San Francisco office; the deficit is now, according to a lawsuit filed by the company’s landlord, $136,260.
Musk has long been known to make business decisions that, if assessed generously, could be described as counterintuitive. Others might just call them stupid. According to Guinness World Records, largely due to poor Tesla stock performance, Musk has lost more money—somewhere between $182 billion and $200 billion—than any other person in history.
Twitter and Musk have not yet commented on the everything-must-go auction, and what purpose the proceeds might serve—The Daily Beast reached out to Twitter and Musk for comment—but the sale raises several questions about the direction of the company.
Does selling giant statues and neon signs shaped like the iconic blue bird logo mean that Musk is planning a branding overhaul, to truly remake the company in his own image? Does ridding the San Francisco offices of sophisticated culinary equipment like pizza ovens, a French rotisserie and automatic slicers mean that the building, too, will soon be on the chopping block? If they’re chucking all the mid-century modern office furniture, where will the remaining employees sit?
“No no, I’m not answering that question,” Nick Dove, President of Heritage Global Partners, told The Daily Beast when asked who had organized the auction. “If you have questions related to Twitter, I would say contact Twitter if you have questions related to the auction.”
Plus, who exactly is bidding on this stuff? A product expert at the software company Alkymi tweeted that she’d bid $35,000 on the neon Twitter bird earlier on Wednesday.
Eric Frohnhoefer spent eight years as a software engineer at Twitter before being abruptly fired in November; Frohnhoefer had gotten into a spat (on Twitter, obviously) with the touchy CEO after he pushed back against Musk’s criticism of the platform’s Android app. “He’s fired,” Musk later tweeted in an exchange about Frohnhoefer. Classy.
Among Frohnhoefer’s former colleagues, “no one I talked to was super interested” in the auction, he told The Daily Beast. “I want the @ sign, but it’s probably more than I am willing to spend, and I don’t think the wife will allow the espresso machine.”
“I don’t know if these are long-term collectors who are bidding on these items right now,” Adam Stackhouse, an auction specialist in science and technology at Bonhams in San Francisco, told The Daily Beast.
While auctions of corporate assets are generally commonplace when businesses are in distress, the high-profile nature of the Twitter saga means their office auction has become a spectacle. The buzz is also inflating prices.
“We’ve sold a lot of Apple material in the past, including signage and those sorts of things, and there are a number of factors that determine value—it depends on the size of the item, its importance, where it was positioned in the company and during what period of the company,” Stackhouse said.
“If you buy something like the neon Twitter sign, it’s huge, it’s very commanding in whatever space, it’s very expensive to transport and it’s tied to the fate of the company,” Stackhouse said.
Right now, the Twitter memorabilia market is hot, and people are eager to spend tens of thousands on items linked to a topical corporate saga with a divisive billionaire at the helm. “10 years from now, I don’t know,” Stackhouse said. “I guess it’s a bit of a risk: will that company still be around, and will it be relevant?”