Who could be the CEO of Twitter if Elon Musk steps down
The following is a free preview from last week’s Command Line, my new weekly newsletter about the tech industry’s inside conversation:
Elon Musk has said he will find a new CEO for Twitter after users voted for him to leave. But who would, in his own words, be “foolish enough to take the job”?
It’s a question I’ve been posing in conversations over the past week. Based on my checks with people who would know, Musk doesn’t appear to be running a formal search yet. And given his propensity to
lie go back on his word, he might not try to find someone. The matter is complicated by his saying that, even after finding a CEO, he will still run the “software & servers teams.” That’s basically the whole company.
For what it’s worth, I do think Musk will eventually find a CEO, not only because he told his Twitter investors he would but because it’s the rational thing for him to do. Below are the names that have been floated to me as good candidates should Musk actually hand over the reins of Twitter. (I’m not including the obvious members of Musk’s transition team that helped him in the early days of the takeover — namely David Sacks, Jason Calacanis, and Sriram Krishnan — since my read is that they are not in a position to take the job if asked.)
Sheryl Sandberg, ex-Meta COO
Pros: This pick is perhaps the most obvious choice, especially if Musk does what he says and continues to lead engineering at Twitter after naming a new CEO. Sandberg has the rep with advertisers and connections that Musk needs to begin repairing Twitter’s spiraling business. And she’s a free agent after leaving Meta last year.
Cons: Musk is no fan of Facebook, and I don’t think they would get along. Sandberg also seems happy focusing on her philanthropy and family life these days.
Emmett Shear, co-founder and CEO of Twitch
Pros: While Shear wasn’t on my shortlist of possible names until I started asking around, I’m coming around to the idea. As the co-founder and current head of Twitch, he has successfully sold a social media company to a tech giant and has the experience Musk needs for his plan to turn Twitter into more of a video platform for creators. Plus, I’ve been hearing that the Twitch org is in disarray as of late.
Cons: He hasn’t led a public company, and Musk plans to bring Twitter back out to the public markets in several years. And Twitch has been unable to successfully expand outside of its main niche of gamer livestreams.
Vanessa Pappas, TikTok COO
Pros: She has the experience Musk needs, having first helped stand up YouTube’s early creator program and more recently as the COO of TikTok. I’ve also heard whispers that she may be planning an exit from TikTok / ByteDance sometime this year.
Con: If Musk is mainly looking for someone that the big advertisers know to lead Twitter, she wouldn’t be the top choice since her focus has mainly been on product and creators.
Jim Lanzone, CEO of Yahoo
Pros: Lanzone’s background is more in media and advertising, aside from his brief stint as CEO of Tinder. He is now leading Yahoo but may jump for the right opportunity. He has the connections with the advertising community and operations experience that Musk could use and the constitution to deal with Musk’s antics.
Con: Unclear if he would want to work for Musk and take on the headache that is Twitter right now.
Kevin Systrom, Instagram co-founder
Pros: In terms of pedigree and product chops, the Instagram co-founder and former CEO is definitely a top pick. He has been quiet since he left Instagram / Facebook in 2018 after clashing with Mark Zuckerberg, though he showed his interest in the TikTok model of social media — disentangling in-feed recommendations from someone’s social graph — on Lex Fridman’s podcast last year. That’s exactly what Musk wants Twitter to focus on, too.
Cons: He has already worked for an opinionated founder / CEO, made a lot of money, and likely doesn’t want to do it all again. Also doesn’t have the degree of clout with the advertising community that Musk is probably looking for.
Honorable mentions floated to me: Adam Bain, Susan Wojcicki, Sarah Friar, Kayvon Beykpour, and Kevin Weil. Am I missing anyone else? Let me know…