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Who could be CEO of Twitter if Elon Musk resigns

The following is a free preview from last week Command Line, my new weekly newsletter on tech industry insider talk:

Elon Musk said he will find a new CEO for Twitter after the users voted for his departure. But who would, in his own wordsbe “stupid enough to take the job”?

That’s a question I’ve been asking in conversations over the past week. Based on my checks with people who would know, Musk doesn’t appear to be conducting an official search yet. And considering his inclination to lie go back on your word, maybe he won’t try to find someone. The matter is complicated by his words that even after he finds a CEO, he will still lead the “software and server teams.” It’s basically the whole company.

For what it’s worth, I think Musk will eventually find a CEO, not just 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 presented to me as good candidates for Musk to actually hand over the reins of Twitter. (I’m not including the obvious members of Musk’s transition team who helped him in the early days of the takeover — namely David Sacks, Jason Calacanis, and Sriram Krishnan — since I read that they are in no position to take the job if asked.)

Sheryl Sandberg, former CEO of Meta

Kristen Radtke / Border; Getty Images

Advantages: This choice is perhaps the most obvious choice, especially if Musk does what he says and continues to lead engineering at Twitter after he appoints a new CEO. Sandberg has the clout with advertisers and the connections Musk needs to start fixing Twitter’s growing business. She is also a free agent after leaving Metta last year.

Against: Musk is not a fan of Facebook, and I don’t think they would agree. Sandberg also seems happy to focus on her philanthropy and family life these days.

Emmett Shear, co-founder and CEO of Twitch

TED2019: Bigger than us

Photo: Lawrence Sumulong/Getty Images

Advantages: Although Shire wasn’t on my short list of possible names until I started asking around, I’m coming up with an idea. As the co-founder and current head of Twitch, he successfully sold the social media company to the 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 heard that the Twitch organization is in disarray lately.

Against: He hasn’t run a public company, and Musk plans to bring Twitter back to the public markets in a few years. And Twitch hasn’t been able to successfully expand outside of its core niche of gaming live streams.

Vanessa Pappas, TikTok COO

TikTok House Party at VidCon 2022

Photo by Vivien Killile/Getty Images for TikTok

Advantages: She has the experience Musk needs, having first helped establish YouTube’s early-stage creator program and most recently served as TikTok’s COO. I’ve also heard whispers that he may be planning to leave TikTok / BiteDance sometime this year.

Con: If Musk is mainly looking for someone who the big advertisers know runs Twitter, she wouldn’t be the best choice because her focus has mostly been on products and creators.

Jim Lanzone, CEO of Yahoo

MAKERS 2022 conference – first day

Photo by Emma McIntire/Getty Images for the MAKERS Conference

Advantages: Lanzone’s background is more in media and advertising, aside from his brief stint as CEO of Tinder. He now runs Yahoo, but could jump in for the right opportunity. He has ties to the advertising community and operational experience that Musk could use and the constitution to deal with Musk’s shenanigans.

Con: It’s unclear if he’d want to work for Musk and take over the headache that is Twitter right now.

Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram

2019 New York Times Dealbook

Photo: Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times

Advantages: In terms of pedigree and product, the Instagram co-founder and former CEO is definitely the best choice. He’s been silent since leaving Instagram/Facebook in 2018 after falling out with Mark Zuckerberg, though he did show interest in TikTok’s social media model — separating feed recommendations from a person’s social graph — on Lex Friedman’s podcast last year. That’s exactly what Musk wants Twitter to focus on.

Against: He’s already worked for a stubborn founder/CEO, made a lot of money, and probably doesn’t want to do all that again. It also lacks the degree of influence in the advertising community that Musk is likely seeking.

I received compliments from: Adam Bain, Susan Wojcicki, Sarah Friar, Kayvon Bakepur, and Kevin Weil. Am I missing anyone else? Call me…



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