Want a giant neon Twitter bird? You'll have to bid more than $17,000.

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Want a giant neon Twitter bird? You'll have to bid more than $17,000.
Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco, Nov. 18, 2022. Twitter is auctioning off surplus corporate assets from its San Francisco headquarters, jettisoning artifacts of a barely bygone era in Bay Area tech. (Jason Henry/The New York Times)

by Michael Levenson

NEW YORK, NY.- Since Elon Musk took over Twitter in October, the company has been in turmoil, as he has aggressively cut costs, laid off half of the company’s full-time workers and hunted for new ways to raise revenue.

Now, Twitter is auctioning off surplus corporate assets from its San Francisco headquarters, jettisoning artifacts of a barely bygone era in Bay Area tech. While the online auction doesn’t signal the end of Twitter, the collection evokes a more flush time when the company’s tastes reflected its status as a hot tech world employer.

The 631 lots include a blue electric light display shaped like Twitter’s bird logo, which had attracted a bid of more than $17,000; a bird statue, which had a bid of $16,000; a 6-foot decorative planter shaped like the “@” symbol (bidding was up to $4,100); and five espresso machines made by the Italian company La Marzocco, one of which had attracted a bid of $11,000.

The auction also offers a range of high-end furniture, including a Knoll womb chair, Eames molded plywood lounge chairs, an Erik Jørgensen Savannah two-seater sofa and a roughly 23-foot-long custom wood conference table.

Ross Dove, CEO of Heritage Global, the parent company of Heritage Global Partners, which is handling the auction, said more than 20,000 people had registered to bid online, more than in any of the thousands of auctions the company has handled over 90 years in business.

He said that the number of registered bidders had “shockingly surpassed” even those of previous high-profile auctions, such as those that sold off items from Enron, Solyndra and Drexel Burnham Lambert after their spectacular collapses.

“The assets are really good because they bought the best of the best, but I don’t believe we would have had this crowd without the fascination with Twitter,” Dove said. Speaking of Musk, he added, “Anything he does draws attention.”

Dove said he expected that the auction would net Twitter about $1.5 million after the bidding, which began Tuesday and closes Wednesday. That sum would not “move the needle” for a company that Musk bought for $44 billion, Dove said. But he said it was nonetheless “good corporate governance” for any company to auction off surplus equipment.

“If you’re not going to use an espresso machine because you have extras,” Dove said, “why do you keep it?”

Twitter, which no longer has a communications department, did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on the auction, which comes as the company has been squeezing costs to stabilize its finances.

In December, The New York Times, citing two people familiar with the matter, reported that Twitter had stopped paying rent at its Seattle office and was facing eviction. Janitorial and security services were also cut, and in some cases employees resorted to bringing their own toilet paper to the office.

This month, the Times, citing two people with knowledge of the plan, reported that Twitter has considered selling usernames as the company experiences a sharp downturn in ad revenue. Musk also came up with a revamped subscription plan to charge users for verification badges.

Now, as Twitter offloads lounge chairs, tables and restaurant-grade deli slicers and mixers, some who knew the company in the pre-Musk era are experiencing a blast of nostalgia.

“Wild to see the Twitter office on auction,” Kevin Weil, a former Twitter executive, wrote on Twitter, as he marveled at the items. “Board room tables, phone booths, chairs, monitors… even the Twitter bird statue. Great memories from a different era.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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