Elon Musk has agreed to appoint a successor to head Twitter, whose task is already looking very delicate, caught between the demands of the ebullient owner and the expectations of advertisers, regulators, creditors and employees.
After nearly two days of procrastination, the entrepreneur has accepted the verdict of the poll he launched on Sunday on his social network. Some 57% of the 17 million participating users have called for his departure.
"I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone crazy enough to do this job!", tweeted the iconoclastic 50-year-old.
Elon Musk has never yet willingly handed over the reins of one of the many major companies he has created or led over the past three decades.
He was forced out of his own company X.com by the board of directors in 2000, and today he is still at the head of Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company, in addition to Twitter.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at Yale University and a specialist in governance, compares him to Travis Kalanick (Uber), Adam Neumann (WeWork), and even to Steve Jobs "before he got kicked in the butt" and was fired from Apple in 1985.
Leaders, according to him, became "closed in on themselves", unable to "listen", "pushing away what could help them".
For Ann Lipton, professor of business law and entrepreneurship at Tulane University, even if Elon Musk designates a successor, "he has very strong views on how to run Twitter", which he will remain the majority shareholder.
"So any new boss might have a hard time implementing his own vision," she says. "He'll probably work in Musk's shadow, a fortiori to the extent that Musk wants to stay with the company."
The Pretoria native thus indicated that even once the rare gem is unearthed, he would still be in charge 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 solicitations from users asking him to decide certain issues and thus weakens his successor.
- "A clone" -
As for the profile of the future general manager, "he needs someone who reacts in a more informed and diplomatic way to outside eyes", believes Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. But for academics, the problem is that Elon Musk "is looking for a clone of himself and that's exactly what we need to avoid.
Several American media have mentioned the names of investor Jason Calacanis and former PayPal executive David Sacks, both of whom are close to Elon Musk and are also avid Twitterers.
They were part of the tight team that surrounded the billionaire during the takeover of the platform and were involved in key decisions, according to the Los Angeles Times.
For Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, rather than picking from his inner circle, the second richest man in the world should go for an experienced executive, comfortable in the role of a public figure and with recognized insights.
He mentions the former boss of CNN, Jeff Zucker, as well as the former CEO of the telephone operator T-Mobile, John Legere. The latter applied in mid-November, but Elon Musk immediately dismissed this proposal.
The successor will have to reassure the regulators, who are worried about a lesser moderation of content, advertisers, many of whom have distanced themselves, but also the creditors of the group, very indebted, as well as his employees.
Elon Musk himself admitted Wednesday to expect a turnover 2023 down more than 40% compared to 2021.
He assures that thanks to the drastic cost-cutting measures taken since late October, including the dismissal of about half of the workforce, "Twitter will be fine, next year".
"The value of Twitter is decreasing rapidly," warns Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. "It's a highly perishable asset."
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