- On Monday, Elon Musk offered to buy Twitter for $44 billion and take it private.
- The potential takeover has sparked speculation about the future of leadership at Twitter.
- Consultants and experts say changes are imminent and a CEO swap is likely.
Elon Musk has a new technology platform to control. On Monday, Musk, the founder of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company, offered to buy Twitter for $44 billion. This acquisition would place the richest man in the world at the head of one of the most powerful
The potential takeover has sparked speculation about the future of Twitter’s leadership and whether Parag Agrawal, the company’s recently appointed CEO, will remain in the role.
Known for his visionary leadership and out-of-the-box thinking, Musk took Tesla from a fringe brand to the world’s most valuable auto company and recently sent a civilian crew of four into orbit in a SpaceX spacecraft.
Experts who spoke with Insider said it’s hard to predict the moves of such an unpredictable character. “It’s impossible to know what Elon Musk will do next,” said Richard Levick, president and CEO of Levick, a crisis public relations firm.
Levick’s company represented Musk’s private spaceflight company, so Levick has first-hand knowledge of Musk’s penchant for unpredictability.
“I remember one night in particular, he called at 6 or 7 at night and said, ‘I’m flying to Washington. Can we have a press conference at 9 o’clock tomorrow morning? ‘” Levick said. “We were successful, and the press conference was a success, but I share this story because I think it indicates that no one knows what Elon Musk is thinking, and sometimes not even Elon Musk.”
Insider spoke with experts including Levick; a reputation management consultant; and a CEO consultant on how Twitter’s executive leadership could crumble under Musk. Their two biggest predictions were that changes are imminent and that a CEO swap is likely.
Change is on the horizon
Musk went public with his grievances with Twitter management. On Tuesday, Musk, who has more than 88 million followers, posted a barrage of tweets criticizing two of the company’s top executives.
Jim Baker, Twitter’s deputy general counsel, faced trolling after Musk confirmed a tweet by right-wing activist Mike Cernovich accusing Baker of committing fraud as FBI general counsel. Twitter policy and legal chief Vijaya Gadde also faced online harassment after Musk describe his decision to restrict a report on the platform as “incredibly inappropriate”.
Experts say Musk’s rifts with top executives are clear indicators that Twitter’s leadership will change under his watch.
“I think you’re going to see a painful cascade of carnage,” said Eric Schiffer, president and CEO of Reputation Management Consultants. “It will be an emotional boost for many executives who were in a comfortable position.”
Musk has also made clear his intentions to turn Twitter into a bulwark of free speech. In response to his tweet Criticizing on Tuesday “the extreme antibody reaction of those who fear free speech”, he said: “By ‘free speech’ I simply mean what is within the law. I am against censorship that will way beyond the law.”
Levick wondered if Musk would be able to invoke the kind of free speech rights he envisions globally on the platform. “They don’t have the First Amendment in China,” he said. “European regulators are far ahead of the Americans when it comes to internet regulation. How will he deal with the Digital Services Act that the EU has just passed?”
Musk has expressed his intention to make Twitter private. Jay Baer, a digital marketing consultant, suggested this would make it easier to implement sweeping changes to the company’s leadership and revenue model.
Last year, Twitter reported total revenue of around $5 billion. “I think he really believes that with a few changes there could be a colossal medium-term increase in revenue and profit,” Baer said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think he’ll make a move like this unless he sees a financial benefit.”
Yet, although some have hailed him as a decisive leader, Musk often confuses observers. “I think it’s very difficult to interpret what he’s doing and his intentions. I think we’re wrong to assume that he will necessarily become deeply involved in day-to-day operations,” said Tom Goodwin, CEO consultant .
A CEO swap is likely
Agrawal, who replaced Twitter founder Jack Dorsey as CEO last year, took the helm at a critical time as the platform introduced revenue-generating features such as its subscription product Blue and Ticketed Spaces, which allows creators to charge for exclusive access to their content.
Following Dorsey’s announcement of Agrawal’s appointment, Musk posted a meme of Agrawal’s head edited out of the body of Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader known for his strict censorship. In an April 13 filing, Musk said he had “no confidence in management.”
Experts say Musk’s strident criticism of Agrawal indicates the CEO’s firing is likely.
But Baer said if Agrawal was to be expelled, it should not be seen as the result of incompetent leadership.
“Given the amount of turmoil internally and globally during his short tenure, I don’t see too many ways he could have done better,” Baer said. “Talent acquisition is on the rise. Twitter is the NFT leader among social networks. The platform is more vital than ever as a cultural touchstone, globally.”
At a company-wide town hall following the Musk acquisition announcement, Agrawal told employees that Twitter’s future under Musk was uncertain, Reuters reported.
Musk’s tendency toward brashness and off-the-cuff tweets raises questions about his approach to free speech and his ability as Twitter owner to use the platform as his personal megaphone. And experts who spoke with Insider say that while Musk has proven himself as a leader, anyone’s guess is what he will do next.