February 5, 2023

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Who could be CEO of Twitter if Elon Musk steps down?

What follows is a free preview from last week Command Line, my new weekly newsletter On the inside conversation in the tech industry:

Elon Musk said he would find a new CEO for Twitter after users They voted him to leave. But who would do that? his wordsbe “foolish enough to take the job”?

It’s a question I’ve been asking in conversations for the past week. Based on my checks with people who know about it, it doesn’t look like Musk is doing an official search yet. Given his tendency to to lie Go back on his word, he may not be trying to find someone. It’s complicated by saying that even after finding a CEO, he’ll still run the “software and server teams.” This is basically the entire company.

For what it’s worth, I think Musk will eventually find a CEO, not just because he told his investors on Twitter he would, but because it’s the logical thing for him to do. Here are the names that have been put forward to me as good candidates who Musk should hand over the reins of Twitter to. (I don’t include the obvious members of Musk’s transition team who helped him in the early days of the takeover — namely David Sachs, Jason Calacannies, and Sriram Krishnan — since my reading says they are not in a position to take up the job if asked).

Sheryl Sandberg, formerly Meta’s COO

Kristin Radtke/The Virage; Getty Images

Positives: This choice is perhaps the most obvious one, especially if Musk does what he says and continues to lead engineering at Twitter after naming a new CEO. Sandberg has the rep with the advertisers and connections Musk needs to get started Fix Twitter’s spiraling business. She is a free agent after leaving Meta last year.

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

Emmett Sher, Co-Founder and CEO of Twitch

TED2019: Bigger than us

Photo by Lawrence Somolong/Getty Images

Positives: While Shear wasn’t on my shortlist of potential names until I started asking, I’m getting the idea. As the co-founder and current president of Twitch, he’s successfully sold a social media company to a tech giant and has the expertise Musk needs for his plan to turn Twitter into more of a video platform for creators. In addition, I heard that the Twitch foundation has been in a bit of a mess lately.

cons: He did not lead a public company, and Musk plans to return Twitter to the public markets in several years. And Twitch hasn’t been able to successfully expand beyond its core stream of live gamer streaming.

Vanessa Pappas, TikTok COO

TikTok House Party at VidCon 2022

Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for TikTok

Positives: She has the expertise Musk needs, having helped first stand up to YouTube’s Early Creators Program and more recently as TikTok’s COO. I’ve also heard whispers that she may plan to exit TikTok/ByteDance sometime this year.

Deceive: If Musk is primarily looking for someone the big advertisers know to lead Twitter, she wouldn’t be the best choice since her focus is primarily on product and creators.

Jim Lanzon, CEO, Yahoo

Makers Conference 2022 - Day 1

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for the MAKERS conference

Positives: Lanzone’s background is more in media and advertising, apart from his brief stint as CEO of Tinder. He now leads Yahoo, but he might jump at the right opportunity. He has contacts with the advertising community and expertise on processes that Musk and the Constitution can use to deal with Musk’s antics.

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Deceive: It’s unclear if he’d want to work for Musk and take on the headaches Twitter is facing right now.

Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram

2019 New York Times Dealbook

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

Positives: In terms of lineage and product, the co-founder and former CEO of Instagram is definitely a top pick. He’s been quiet since leaving Instagram/Facebook in 2018 following his clash with Mark Zuckerberg, though he’s shown his interest in the social media model TikTok — untangling nutrition recommendations from someone’s social graph — on Lex Fridman’s podcast last year. This is exactly what Musk wants Twitter to focus on as well.

cons: He’s already worked for a opinionated founder/CEO, made a lot of money, and likely doesn’t want to do it again. It also doesn’t have the level of leverage with the ad community that Musk is likely looking for.

Honorable Mention: Adam Payne, Susan Wojcicki, Sarah Friar, Kevon Bikpour, and Kevin Weil. Am I missing anyone else? let me know…