Elon Musk, the polarising entrepreneur and self-proclaimed visionary has finally thrown in the towel and officially announced his resignation as the CEO of Twitter. The news has reverberated through the tech, media, and news industries alike, leaving many wondering what this means for the platform’s future.
Controversial boss of Tesla, lifelong proponent of dogecoin, proud inheritor of an apartheid South Africa emerald mine and – until today – CEO of Twitter. Safe to say, Elon Musk has a pretty varied CV that has inspired envy amongst his swathes of devoted technocrat acolytes and thirteen-year-old boys around the globe.
Today, however, is a sad day for his aforementioned fans. Barely a year after his audacious acquisition of Twitter for an exorbitant $44 billion – dubbed by some as the “defining deal of our era” – Musk took to his beloved platform to reveal his decision to his millions of followers.
While the identity of his successor remains under wraps, Musk revealed that the new CEO would be a woman, set to take the reins within six weeks. Musk himself plans to assume the roles of executive chairman and chief technology officer.
WATCH: Throwback to when the Twitter acquisition was just a glint in Elon’s eye…
Rumors are swirling about the identity of the new CEO, with insider sources reporting that Linda Yaccarino, head of advertising at NBCUniversal, is in talks for the coveted position. Neither Twitter nor NBCUniversal has confirmed or denied reports at present time.
This move comes as no surprise to those familiar with the mounting pressure on Musk to step aside and focus on his other ventures. It seems that outcry from Twitter users who expressed their blatant discontent via a poll last year – to which Musk dismissively responded “no one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive” – has finally landed with the stubborn billionaire.
Megan Stals, a Markets Analyst at Australian investment platform Stake, notes how “Brand perception is particularly important when it comes to the vehicle industry, and maintaining a positive image is essential for maintaining Tesla’s place in the market.”
Excited to announce that I’ve hired a new CEO for X/Twitter. She will be starting in ~6 weeks!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2023
My role will transition to being exec chair & CTO, overseeing product, software & sysops.
Funnily enough, Tesla shares saw a surge in value following Musk’s announcement, suggesting that investors might actually be relieved to see him relinquish control. Shareholders had long criticised Musk for diverting his attention away from Tesla after acquiring Twitter, fearing potential damage to the car company’s already precarious brand.
She went on to add that in light of Musk’s controversial public profile and reputation for staunch political views and the occasional off-colour remark…
“Elon has also lost popularity among some consumers who disagree with his views, with some reports of people being embarrassed to drive Teslas.”Megan Stals, Markets Analyst at Stake
On top of this, as Tesla is Musk’s only public company, he’s been forced to sell stock to fund his other ventures. Stals explains: “Given SpaceX’s recent Starship Rocket explosion and the well-publicised issues at Twitter, this was uncomfortable for many investors.”
Moreover, Musk’s capricious nature and niche sense of humour often make it difficult to discern his serious intentions. In a recent interview with the BBC, when asked about Twitter’s future leadership, Musk whimsically claimed to have appointed a dog as the platform’s leader.
However, if rumours about a female executive taking the helm turn out to be true, it could represent a significant milestone in diversifying the leadership of major tech companies, where women have long been underrepresented.
Despite Musk’s controversial introduction of a paid Twitter Blue membership, the platform’s primary revenue stream continues to be advertising. The new CEO, whoever they may be, will likely prioritise relationships with advertisers and look to rapidly address their manifold concerns about content moderation on the platform.
Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech champion, acquired Twitter with the intention of safeguarding this fundamental right. In doing so, however, many have reported spikes in the amount of extremist and misleading material on the site.
In an effort to streamline operations and bolster profitability, Musk controversially initiated mass layoffs of key staff (followed by swift rehires) as well as dissolving the board and replacing it with a cabal of tech bros acting as Musk’s unofficial advisors. These cost-cutting measures garnered mixed reactions, but Musk claimed that they had started to yield positive results in the first quarter of this year.
Twitter’s stock price has taken a dip in light of the announcement, but whether it bounces back or begins to nosedive when the new CEO is announced remains to be seen. Though many are relived to see Elon step back, there’s no denying that he acts as a strong draw for some.
On top of this, Twitter’s influence is thought by some to be massively outsized. By far the smallest of the major social networks – with approximately 290m users compared to the billions on Facebook or TikTok – it relies on the political and social influence of its users for relevance. Whether they all stick around in a post-Elon world is also unknown.
I won’t be losing any sleep over Musk’s exit from Twitter. That is, of course, unless the memes that his department inevitably generates are so good that I’m scrolling into the wee hours. This, like so much in this story, remains to be seen.