(Bloomberg) — Elon Musk confirmed he will step down as chief executive officer of Twitter Inc after finding a successor, although he plans to retain control of the company’s engineering teams.
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Since taking over in October, Musk has overseen the firing or departure of nearly 5,000 of Twitter’s 7,500 employees. He has said he plans to focus on engineering Twitter as owner, and it’s hard to tell what’s left of other functions like legal and finance after his departure.
The billionaire executive began the search for a new CEO, according to a person familiar with the search, after losing a straw poll posted on the social media site asking whether he should leave his role as head of the company.
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More than 10 million votes, or 57.5%, were in favor of Musk stepping down, according to results Monday morning. Kasturi committed to follow up on the results when she launched the survey, but a day later she had tweeted more than a dozen times without directly addressing the results. The search for a new CEO may be on and it may take time to deliver results, said the person, who asked not to be named while discussing a personal matter.
Musk has been running Twitter almost single-handedly since it was bought for $44 billion in October. He initially said he did not plan to stay on as CEO permanently and that he has surrounded himself with a handful of trusted people, some of whom he suggested would be ready to take on the role that Musk is expected to take on. Called a thankless act. “Nobody wants the job that can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor,” Musk tweeted earlier this week.
Those who remain in Musk’s inner circle include Jason Calakanis, an investor and podcaster and former PayPal Holdings Inc. David Sachs. The two were part of Musk’s war room in the days after the deal closed, and people familiar with the situation said they were given internal accounts and helped make decisions about who would keep their jobs. Both have been making public suggestions for Twitter’s business strategy.
Calacanis laid out his ideas for monetizing Twitter coming Tuesday, advocating for features including a “poll analytics” link, where information on Twitter poll results would be broken down by voter attribute, such as country and number of Twitter followers. Such insight is “well worth paying for,” he tweeted. On Monday, he talked about Twitter’s new business branding efforts.
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Sachs also retweeted a notification on Monday about Twitter Business, a new program that lets businesses identify their brands and key employees on Twitter. Sachs added the logo for Kraft Ventures, the name of the venture firm he runs. In reference to Musk’s poll on whether he should stay on as CEO of Twitter, Sachs suggested that other CEOs run similar polls.
In his first tweet since the conclusion of the survey, Musk said that Twitter would restrict voting on major policy decisions to paying Blue customers. The New York Times reported that the service, which costs $8 a month, had attracted nearly 140,000 subscribers as of November 15.
Calacanis did not respond to an emailed request whether he and Musk had discussed the CEO role. A spokesman for Sachs declined to comment.
CNBC’s David Faber first reported on the search for Musk’s new CEO. Faber pointed out that the search for Musk is ongoing and had begun before the Twitter poll came out.
Kasturi’s dramatic stunt, asking the public about his leadership abilities, came shortly after he attended the World Cup final match in Qatar, triggering a wave of trending topics such as “vote yes” and “CEO of Twitter”.
Musk has warned that Twitter is in danger of bankruptcy and has set up a “hardcore” work environment for the remaining workers after massive downsizing. In less than two months under him, he scared off advertisers, alienated Twitter’s most ardent creators and transformed the service from a reflection of the day’s news to a mainstream one.
After losing the initial poll, Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla Inc, retweeted promotional material for the car company and Twitter’s Blue for Business service. He responded to an article about rival Toyota Motor Corp’s criticism of electric vehicles with a simple “wow”.
The stock of Tesla, Musk’s by far most valuable holding, has fallen since its acquisition of Twitter and critics have argued he is spending too much time at the social media company. Shares fell 8.1% at the close in New York.
–With assistance from Sarah McBride.
(updated with additional context)
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