Twitter’s internal turmoil intensifies this week as Elon Musk’s takeover of the company draws close. In the latest of a string of leadership shakeups, CEO Parag Agrawal fired two senior managers responsible for revenue and product. The fate of Agrawal’s own job is also up in the air as Twitter’s future owner has expressed an interest in running the company himself.
Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s head of user product for four years, was let go on May 12 while on paternity leave, according to a series of tweets he posted. “Parag asked me to leave after letting me know that he wants to take the team in a different direction,” Beykpour said in one of the tweets.
The other fired executive this week is Bruce Falck, who leads Twitter’s revenue product department (creating products for advertisers). Falck announced his departure in a now-deleted tweet on May 12. His Twitter bio now says “unemployed.”
How is Twitter being reorganized?
Agrawal has dismissed about half of Twitter’s senior leadership team since succeeding Jack Dorsey as CEO in November 2021. In his first month on the job, Agrawal reorganized Twitter’s design and engineering teams and fired chief designer Dantley Davis and engineering head Michael Montano. In January, he let go security head Peiter Zatko, a well-known figure within the cybersecurity community who joined Twitter in late 2020. Those personnel changes were made before Musk began buying Twitter shares and expressed an interest in acquiring the company.
It’s unclear whether the reshuffling this week is part of Agrawal’s existing agenda of running Twitter or a more recent decision to reorganize the company’s leadership in preparation for Musk’s takeover—which as of this morning was “put on keep up” pending some due diligence reports on Twitter’s user number.
What will happen to Twitter’s CEO?
Agrawal has good reasons to do something to defend his own job security. Musk has told his Twitter co-investors he intends to serve as the company’s CEO, at the minimum for a time, when the acquisition completes. He didn’t say how that may affect Agrawal’s position within the company.
“It certainly seems like Parag may be shaping a new narrative ahead of Elon Musk’s entrance into the scene,” said Ari Zoldan, as adjunct professor who teaches entrepreneurship at Yeshiva University. “During transitions and uncertain times, employees and very often senior executives are let go and pegged as the scapegoat. It could be the case here.”
Other observers see it more as business as usual. “Of course [Agrawal] is jockeying to continue a meaningful role in Twitter with or without Musk’s involvement. But these replacements could be more related with Agrawal’s own plans to run Twitter than him carrying out the requests of Musk,” said Jason Schloetzer, a professor who teaches corporate governance at Georgetown University.
Agrawal, Twitter’s former chief technology officer, was appointed by Dorsey when the latter decided to step down and focus on his other company, Block. Dorsey has served as Twitter’s CEO twice, but says he will never rule Twitter again.
That effectively leaves Agrawal fighting alone when Musk arrives. Musk is known for not liking Agrawal very much. In December 2021, shortly after Agrawal was promoted CEO, Musk tweeted a photoshopped meme depicting him as former USSR dictator Joseph Stalin. The tweet was presumably a jab at Agrawal for his past comments defending censorship on Twitter.
Musk has also mocked Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy and trust, deriding her as the platform’s “top censorship advocate.” Last month, he tweeted a meme with a photo of Gadde that cast her as an icon of “Twitter’s left wing bias.”
Twitter has paused most hiring except for business-basic roles, the company said in a statement on May 13, adding that “we are pulling back on non-labor costs to ensure we are being responsible and efficient.”
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