Musk Starts Assembling New Cadre of Leaders Inside Twitter
The rise of new leadership under Musk has provided at least a glimmer of internal stability after a two-week stretch of chaos.
(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk, who acquired Twitter Inc. two weeks ago and immediately pushed out almost all of its top executives, has started to assemble a new group of senior leaders atop the social network.
The company started reshuffling teams this week following a massive round of job cuts that eliminated roughly half of its 7,000-plus workers on Nov. 4. Among managers who remained after the dust settled, a few have begun to emerge as stewards of some of Twitter’s most important internal divisions as Musk seeks to rapidly overhaul the struggling business.
The rise of new leadership under Musk has provided at least a glimmer of internal stability after a two-week stretch of chaos. The most visible among the new guard has been Yoel Roth, a Twitter veteran who reports to Musk and is now running all of the company’s Trust and Safety efforts -- some of which previously fell under other executives, according to people familiar with the matter. That includes content policies, election efforts and plans to fight spam and fake accounts.
Roth has been sending tweet threads regularly to share details about Twitter’s efforts to fight election misinformation -- an area of concern to many critics as the company’s changes played out on the eve of the US midterm vote. Roth has also been attempting to explain the site’s plans around account verification, which have been evolving at a dizzying pace. Musk has been retweeting and replying to Roth’s posts, and encouraging others to read them -- a signal to followers that Roth is someone the billionaire trusts to communicate the company’s message.
On the product side, Behnam Rezaei, listed as a senior director of engineering on his LinkedIn, is now overseeing all of engineering and product development at Twitter, reporting directly to Musk, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak on behalf of the company. Twitter previously separated its product groups into three organizations: Bluebird, the consumer product group; Goldbird, the revenue-generating product group; and Redbird, an engineering and infrastructure product group. These divisions no longer exist, according to several of the people.
Twitter’s marketing and sales divisions are now run by Robin Wheeler, the people said. Wheeler, a sales vice president also reporting to Musk, has been leading the social network’s efforts to soothe advertiser concerns about its brand and content policies. On Wednesday, she hosted a town hall-style meeting on Twitter Spaces with Musk.
The session was intended for advertisers, but reached an audience of well over 100,000 listeners. Last week, Wheeler introduced Musk during a separate private call with a group of marketing advisers and top chief marketing officers at other companies, people familiar with the matter said.
Wheeler showed backbone during the question-and-answer session of the Twitter Spaces, and didn’t shy away from asking Musk hard questions. She said she was representing the concerns of advertisers and inquired about such thorny issues as hate speech, brand safety and how the company plans to address content moderation.
Read more: Musk Tries to Soothe Concerns of Twitter Advertisers
The company’s new structure is still being worked out, and it’s possible -- even likely -- things will continue to change, people familiar said.
Musk emailed his workers for the first time late Wednesday to prepare them for “difficult times ahead” and ban remote work unless he personally approved it.
Musk, who named himself “Chief Twit” upon his acquisition, continues to receive some advice and counsel from a cadre of close friends and former colleagues, people with knowledge of the matter said. That includes his former PayPal colleague David Sacks; friend and investor Jason Calacanis; Andreessen Horowitz partner Sriram Krishnan; investor and SpaceX board member Antonio Gracias; and Alex Spiro, Musk’s lawyer.
This group, which was most active in the immediate aftermath of the deal closing, has helped advise Musk on everything from product ideas to layoffs to Twitter’s new leadership, the people said. For example, Rezaei and other engineers who are suddenly stepping into senior roles at Twitter worked closely with Krishnan when he was on staff at the company a few years ago.
Sacks, for his part, recently sought to suggest his role at Twitter isn’t formal, tweeting, “I have no official role. I’m not ‘in charge’ of anything. I’m doing what investors try to do in Silicon Valley, which is be helpful at the margins.”
Twitter’s legal division is also unsettled, and it’s not clear who will ultimately take over as general counsel. Spiro, Musk’s lawyer and a key player in his court battle to walk away from the $44 billion deal, has been assisting the legal team in the meantime, people familiar said.
Even if things even out after the frenzy of the initial transition, Twitter is still far from stable. Musk, who also helms Tesla Inc. and SpaceX, is expected to eventually hire a chief executive officer, or someone with a similar title, to help run the social media company’s day-to-day operations.
Until then, Musk seems to be quickly making most decisions himself, and his Twitter feed remains the central megaphone for communicating them.
(Updates with reference to Musk’s email to staff in 10th paragraph.)
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