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What Elon Musk might be looking for in a Twitter CEO

What Elon Musk might be looking for in a Twitter CEO

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With the search for a new CEO of Twitter, Elon Musk didn’t exactly make the job look attractive. After a poll of Twitter users called for the entrepreneur’s resignation as CEO, he tweeted that anyone “dumb enough to take the job” said “You have to like pain very much“.

But it’s his own rampage on Twitter in the eight weeks since his purchase that has done much to explain the challenges his successor will face: a traumatized and shrunken workforce, rogue advertisers, polarized and angry users, and politicians and competitors who smell blood .

A Twitter co-investor and loyalist predicts that Musk’s brutal cost-cutting will prove a positive shock to the system and pave the way for a new corporate culture. But it’s also hurt Twitter, putting it at risk of struggling with essential functions like maintaining its technical infrastructure.

The brutal cut will give the new CEO at least some degree of financial stability, if Musk is to be believed. He claimed this week that the massive job cuts will bring Twitter’s finances back into balance, despite projected revenues of just $3 billion next year — 40 percent down from last year as a public company. Still, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that he came perilously close to burning down the village in an attempt to save it.

This will put the next CEO in a very different position than the executives Musk has placed at his other companies. These companies were built from the ground up around high-flying missions that involved grand engineering challenges like building electric vehicles or space rockets.

That’s what defined the archetypal Musk lieutenant: tech-savvy, rising to the top through an engineer-led organization where speed is paramount. By all appearances, they are fiercely loyal and are unlikely to ever challenge the boss on big issues or steal too much of the spotlight. Typical of the breed is Gwynne Shotwell, an aerospace executive who joined SpaceX in 2002, the year Musk founded it, and rose through the ranks to become president and chief operating officer.

There are important differences with Twitter. One is that Musk has said he’s looking for a CEO, a title he’s kept to himself at Tesla and SpaceX. That suggests he wants to hand off more responsibility for rebuilding the organization, from staffing to restoring relationships with advertisers – although he’s unlikely to cede complete control of the company’s content policies.

That could point to a CEO with social media savvy and a strong business record — one reason, perhaps inevitable, that former Facebook number two Sheryl Sandberg’s name has been widely touted. But after saying goodbye to a wildly successful social media career at the helm, Sandberg seems an unlikely person to take to Twitter for Musk’s Trump antics.

Others closer to Musk’s thinking — and who have already contributed to his Twitter overhaul — include David Sacks, who once ran the corporate social network Yammer, and investors Jason Calacanis and Sriram Krishnan.

But if Musk’s reason for buying Twitter was to defend free speech and oppose “wake” culture, he’s also toyed with a technical challenge that could make Twitter more like its other companies. Musk thought about turning it into an “everything app,” something that would meet many of its users’ everyday needs in one place.

Adding payments is a first step — one reason speculation has fallen on executives including Sarah Friar, head of social app Nextdoor and former chief financial officer at Jack Dorsey’s payments company Bloc; or David Marcus, a former PayPal executive who once ran Facebook’s cryptocurrency. However, neither of them have the strong technical background that would obviously make them suitable for either of Musk’s companies.

One person who might fit the bill, according to growth stock investor Cathie Wood, is Bret Taylor, the former Twitter chairman who recently stepped down as co-CEO of Salesforce and has held key positions at Google and Facebook in the past. His steady and unflappable demeanor might also offer some compensation for the hot-headed Musk.

Whether he — or any other potential candidate — would befriend the volatile Musk is impossible to predict. But with one of Silicon Valley’s brightest jobs up for grabs, there likely won’t be a shortage of willing candidates.

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