Elon Musk said he has picked NBCUniversal advertising executive Linda Yaccarino to be the new CEO of Twitter.
Musk announced on Thursday that he had chosen his replacement as the chief executive of Twitter and its parent company, X, and that “she” (without naming who) will be starting in about six weeks. Musk confirmed his selection on Friday morning.
Yaccarino is a seasoned media executive who could help repair Twitter’s relationship with its advertisers, many of whom have quit or cut back from the platform recently because of Musk’s perceived volatility. She has a reputation for being a tough negotiator and was key in the launch of NBCUniversal’s digital Peacock streaming service, according to the Wall Street Journal. She’s also a known Trump supporter, according to sources. In the past few months, Yaccarino has publicly praised Musk, and she interviewed him at a major advertising conference in April — paving her way, in the eyes of media insiders, to take on the role.
Yaccarino did not respond to a request for comment confirming her new role.
But if you think that means the Elon-Twitter story is over, don’t hold your breath. Musk is still very much in control. He will still be the owner of Twitter. Unless he sells the company — or a controlling share of it — he’s the one calling the shots.
How much power he gives Yaccarino is entirely at Musk’s discretion.
“I can think of no finer way to restore trust in the advertising community than by recruiting Linda Yaccarino for the CEO role,” said Lou Paskalis, longtime ad executive and CEO and founder of AJL Advisory. “But the only way that would work is if she has autonomy from the erratic behaviors of Elon that have undermined his efforts thus far.”
Although Yaccarino is not vocal about her political beliefs, it’s well known in the advertising community that she’s conservative, according to several sources. She served on former President Donald Trump’s Council on Sports and Nutrition, and many have noted that she likes and follows conservative accounts on Twitter. But she’s also drawn flak from the right. Some of the more extreme right-wing Twitter influencer accounts have criticized her for praising diversity in the workforce and for being chair of the Taskforce on the Future of Work at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF), which they view as an elitist organization.
Even if Musk follows through with this plan and actually gives up his job as CEO — and this is not at all guaranteed to happen until it happens — the billionaires’s ownership of Twitter means he can essentially hire or fire a new CEO as he pleases. Twitter is now a private company, so Musk has virtually no outside accountability from an independent board of directors to question his decisions.
In a tweet announcing the leadership change, Musk said he “will transition to being exec chair & CTO, overseeing product, software & sysops.” These roles still represent a major part of the business’s operations. So while Musk could decide to give a new CEO control over some parts of Twitter’s day-to-day business, just how much control he gives up is entirely his choice.
In other words, Musk’s critics may be celebrating at the prospect of a new person in charge at Twitter, but it’s not guaranteed how much — especially on the product side — will change, even with someone new at the top.
“He’s running product and technology for a 100% software company. What is the CEO in charge of: not paying the vendors?” Jason Goldman, Twitter’s former board member and first head of product, told Vox in a text.
In the past, Musk has been willing to give up some power at his other companies, including SpaceX and Tesla. Leaders like Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s COO, run the business day to day.
But it may be easier for Musk to accept his limitations when it comes to handling the day to day of launching rockets into space or building cars than with Twitter. Musk has described running Twitter, while a “painful experience,” to be a relatively easier challenge — and one he thinks he can master by eliminating bots, adding more paid content, and allowing a wider range of voices on the platform. And whether you agree with his “free speech extremist” values or not, it’s clear that Musk has strong opinions about how to run a social media company. Now, more than a year after his initial bid to buy Twitter, Musk has given no indication that that’s changed.
So if Musk isn’t ready to fully give up power at Twitter, why pick a new CEO?
A new CEO will put a new face to Twitter’s brand, and draw attention to someone besides Musk and his antics. Yaccarino could bring much-needed stability after Musk’s six month chaotic reign as Twitter’s chief executive. But don’t expect him to quit Twitter anytime soon.
Update, May 12, noon ET: This article has been updated with details about Linda Yaccarino, Twitter’s new CEO.