Twitter Inc. fired back at a private jet provider that sued over unpaid bills, saying the company overcharged for the social media giant’s head of marketing to fly across the country in October to meet with the incoming new owner, Elon Musk.
Leslie Berland, Twitter’s then-chief marketing officer, flew round trip coast-to-coast on jets provided by Private Jet Services Group LLC on Oct. 26 and 27, when Musk was closing his $44 billion acquisition of the platform. Berland was a primary point of contact with Musk and personally escorted him on a tour of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters before returning to her office in New Jersey.
Berland was fired in early November, along with about half of Twitter’s workforce. When Private Jet Services billed $197,725 for Berland’s flights a few days later, Twitter rejected the invoices on the grounds that the flights were booked by unauthorized employees.
In court papers filed Tuesday in New Hampshire federal court, Twitter complained that Private Jet Services grossly overcharged for Berland’s trip, billing as much as twice the going rate depending on the type of aircraft used.
“Market rate for next-day private air charter services, round trip, coast-to-coast on midsize jets are estimated at $70,000 to $96,000, and on large jets, $88,000 to $156,000,” Twitter’s lawyers said. “These ranges are substantially less” than the invoice submitted for Berland’s flights.
Twitter’s lawyers also claimed the company doesn’t have to pay because the charters were arranged by Berland’s executive assistant and by the executive assistant of Twitter’s then-CEO Parag Agrawal. Neither employee is one of the four “designated representatives” named in Twitter’s contract as an authorized booker, according to the filing.
Since Musk’s purchase, Twitter has failed to pay millions of dollars in rent for its San Francisco headquarters and London offices, has been sued by multiple contractors over unpaid services and has auctioned off everything from bird statues to espresso machines to raise money. He’s also openly floated the idea of bankruptcy, cited a “massive drop” in revenue as some advertisers fled from the platform, and slashed staff since closing his leveraged buyout.
Private Jet Services’ complaint included internal Twitter emails concerning the invoice, including one sent by Agrawal’s assistant pointing out the CEO had signed off on Berland’s charter expense as “an urgent need the week the deal closed.”
However, Marty O’Neill, the Twitter executive who received that email, still rebuffed the charges saying, “New management is not going to budge.”
Twitter asked the New Hampshire judge to dismiss the complaint because the charges fell outside the bounds of its charter contract.
Timothy McLaughlin, the charter company’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after regular business hours.
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