Elon Musk agreed to name a successor at the head of Twitter, whose task already promises to be quite delicate, caught between the demands of the boiling owner and the expectations of advertisers, regulators, creditors and employees.
After nearly two days of procrastination, the businessman accepted the verdict of the poll he had launched on his social network on Sunday. About 57% of the 17 million participating users demanded to leave it. “I will resign from general management as soon as I find someone crazy enough to do this job!” tweeted the fifty-year-old iconoclast.
Elon Musk never willingly relinquished the reins of one of the many great companies he created or took over over the past three decades.
Disembarked from the company X.com itself by the board of directors in 2000, it is still ahead, in addition to Twitter, of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Yale University professor and governance expert, compares him to Travis Kalanick (Uber), Adam Neumann (WeWork), even Steve Jobs “before he got his ass kicked” and fired from Apple in 1985. Leaders, according to him, they become “removed”, unable to “listen”, “rejecting what could help them”.
For Ann Lipton, professor of business law and entrepreneurship at Tulane University, even if Elon Musk appoints a successor, “he has very strong opinions about how to manage Twitter”, in which he will remain the majority shareholder.
“So any new boss might struggle to implement their own vision,” she says. “He will likely work in Musk’s shadow, especially as Musk wants to stay with the company.” The native of Pretoria thus indicated that even after the rare pearl was unearthed, she would still take care of “the teams dedicated to software and servers”.
The billionaire being a compulsive user of the platform, Ann Lipton imagines the possibility that he responds to direct requests from users who ask him to decide certain issues and thus weakens his successor.
As for the profile of the future managing director, “he needs someone who reacts more wisely and diplomatically to outside gazes”, says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld.
However, for the academic, the problem is that Elon Musk “is looking for a clone of himself and that is exactly what must be avoided”. Several American media mentioned the names of investor Jason Calacanis and former PayPal executive David Sacks, close to Elon Musk, and also patented tweets.
They were part of the cohesive team that surrounded the billionaire during the acquisition of the platform and intervened in important decisions, according to the Los Angeles Times.
For Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, instead of digging his guard, the second richest man in the world should look for an experienced leader, comfortable in the place of a public figure and with recognized intuitions.
He cites former CNN boss Jeff Zucker as well as former T-Mobile general manager John Legere. The latter applied in mid-November, but Elon Musk immediately rejected the proposal.
The successor will have to reassure regulators, concerned about less moderation of content, advertisers, many of whom have distanced themselves, but also the group’s creditors, heavily indebted, as well as its employees.
Elon Musk himself admitted on Wednesday that he expected a drop of more than 40% in turnover in 2023 compared to 2021. He guarantees that, thanks to the drastic saving measures taken since the end of October, in particular the dismissal of about half of the workforce, “Twitter will be fine next year”.
“Twitter’s value is rapidly decreasing,” cautions Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, however. “It is a highly perishable asset.”