Musk, of course, is notoriously unpredictable but one thing seems clear: Twitter’s leadership will likely look much different after the deal than it does today.
Then on Tuesday, Musk publicly criticized two of the company’s top legal executives on Twitter, leading each to face a barrage of hateful comments on the platform.
“[Musk is] probably not happy with the management team and the board, and I think that’s a big reason why the initial offer to sit on the board and see how things play out over the next two years is something he just wasn’t interested in,” said Angelo Zino, senior industry analyst at CFRA Research.
Twitter declined to comment on this story. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.
The fate of Twitter’s CEO
“It’s hard for me to see a situation where [Agrawal] remains as CEO after the deal,” said Daniel Newman, principal analyst at tech research firm Futurum Research. “It’s unfortunate because I don’t think his tenure was long enough to actually fully indict him. … I just think with Musk’s comments, it’s pretty clear that he wants to go in kind of a hard right from where the strategy was,” he said.
It’s not exactly clear what that vision is. On one hand, Musk has said he wants to “unlock” Twitter’s “enormous potential.” But on the other, he’s said his acquisition of him is not about money and he made suggestions for the platform, such as removing content restrictions, that could run counter to Twitter’s core advertising revenue model. Whatever his plans, Musk will almost certainly want to stack the company’s management team with leaders who are on the same page.
“He’ll be hiring people who understand his vision, understand the kind of work, product and culture he’s trying to create,” Newman said. “There’s no question that this is going to be a 180-degree culture shift. Tesla is known as being a very hard culture, pretty demanding of people, [while] Twitter was kind of seen as a little bit of a softer culture, a little more thoughtful about people and obviously was very attentive to a lot of social issues. … I think Musk is going to be very prudent to make sure he sorts out the talent who he thinks can help him carry his mission forward.”
Even if Musk does clean house at Twitter, it seems unlikely that the Tesla and SpaceX CEO will want to run Twitter himself, at least not for long, given his many commitments.
Musk may want to avoid putting himself in that position, given how reliant his other companies are on government contracts.
Many followers of the company are now speculating about whether Musk might encourage Dorsey — who stepped down as CEO in November and is set to leave the board in May — to return to a leadership role at Twitter after the deal is complete. While the Twitter cofounder also has other things on his plate from him as the CEO of financial services firm Block, Musk and Dorsey seem to get along, and may agree on a vision for the platform.
The two eccentric, billionaire, crypto-loving tech titans have traded friendly remarks on Twitter over the years. When Twitter was facing pressure from an activist investor in 2020, Musk tweeted: “Just want [to] say that I support @Jack as Twitter CEO. He has a good ❤️.” More recently, Musk complimented the new “Block Head” title Dorsey has taken on at Block.
“Elon’s goal of creating a platform that is ‘maximally trusted and broadly inclusive’ is the right one,” Dorsey said. “This is the right path…I believe it with all my heart.”
Dorsey also noted that Twitter has been “my sole issue and my biggest regret,” saying, “It has been owned by Wall Street and the ad model. Taking it back from Wall Street is the correct first step.”
In recent weeks, Dorsey has criticized Twitter’s board and suggested he takes issue with its stance as a public company.
“It wants to be a public good at a protocol level, not a company,” Dorsey said. “Solving for the problem of it being a company however, Elon is the singular solution I trust.”
In some ways, a Dorsey return under Musk would seem surprising. The Twitter cofounder oversaw the platform during many of its struggles to grow its user base and increase profits. Dorsey has also undoubtedly had at least some influence on Twitter’s existing culture, which Musk may try to overhaul. And Twitter has said Dorsey was responsible for many of the company’s biggest and most controversial decisions, most notably removing former President Donald Trump’s account, which Musk appears to oppose.
Still, if Musk’s plans for Twitter align with “what Dorsey saw the company as but lost his handle on it over the years, it could be an interesting way for him to return and run the company that he always envisioned running but never had the support to do,” Newman said.