Report: Instagram CEO misled regulators about offer from Twitter

Just weeks before accepting a $1bn offer from Facebook, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom agreed to sell the company to Twitter – but then changed his mind, according to a report.

The New York Times says Systrom made a verbal agreement to sell to Twitter for $525 million in March, but then pulled out of the deal. In April, it agreed a much higher price with Facebook instead.

It’s not the first time that such rumors have surfaced. What makes it a little more interesting this time, though, is that Systrom apparently assured California state regulators under oath that the company hadn’t received any formal offers from any potential buyers other than Facebook.

And while he said he hadn’t received any term sheets from interested parties, the paper’s sources say that he did.

The California Corporations Department hearing was aiming to determine whether the Facebook deal was in the best interest of Instagram investors. But if the New York Times sources are to be believed, Instagram may not have done its best to get the highest price. They say that Twitter was prefectly prepared to make a higher offer for the company, but wasn’t given the chance.

Certainly, Twitter and Instagram can’t now be said to be the best of friends. Earlier this month, Instagram shut down Twitter Cards, which  allowed Twitter users to view full versions of photos on the social network.

And, last week, Twitter responded by adding Instagram-style features to its own service, allowing users to edit photos and apply filters.

As a result of its hearing, the California Corporations Department granted permission for the Facebook acquisition to go ahead in August. It says it hasn’t received any complaints since. But if Systrom is found to have lied to the hearing, it could mean an anti-trust investigation of the Facebook deal, as well as perjury charges.