Elon Musk is in talks to hire Linda Yaccarino, chairman of global advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal, as CEO of Twitter, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
Talks are at an advanced stage, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are confidential. Mrs. Yaccarino has been in discussions with Mr. Musk for several weeks, they said. Last month, Yaccarino interviewed Mr. Musk on stage at a promotional event in Miami.
Mr. Musk had so earlier on Thursday that he had selected a CEO for Twitter, but did not identify the leader. In a tweet, he said “she starts in ~6 weeks!”[ads1]; He added that he would remain involved as an executive and “CTO,” which usually means chief technology officer, and that he would continue to oversee Twitter’s product and software.
Musk and Yaccarino did not respond to requests for comment. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Yaccarino was in talks with Musk.
Mr. Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion last year, will retain a firm grip on the company even as he appoints a chief executive. As Twitter’s owner, he has left his mark on it by eliminating more than 75 percent of its 7,500 employees, installing his own managers and changing the service’s features and strategy. He also took Twitter private, meaning he doesn’t have to disclose company information to the public.
Any new CEO is set to inherit a number of challenges at Twitter. The company faces a failing advertising business, which has been its main source of revenue, as well as debt payments of about $1.5 billion a year from the sale to Mr. Musk. At an investor conference in March, he said Twitter had experienced a 50 percent drop in ad revenue and was headed for bankruptcy within months of the purchase.
Some of Twitter’s advertising woes were related to a broader downturn fueled by uncertainty in the global economy. But Mr. Musk also spooked advertisers after buying Twitter by throwing out safeguards on what kind of posts would be allowed on the social media service. Brands typically don’t want to run ads alongside toxic content.
IPG, one of the world’s largest advertising companies, this autumn issued a recommendation through its media agencies to clients to temporarily stop consumption on Twitter due to moderation problems.
Last month, in an interview with the BBC, Musk said most of Twitter’s advertisers had returned.
In Ms. Yaccarino wanted Twitter to get a leader with deep ties to the advertising industry and with extensive experience in the media sector. Mrs. Yaccarino, whose star has risen during a long career at NBCUniversal, has personal relationships with most of the CEOs of the ad holding companies, a key constituency for Twitter.
She has moved in the upper echelons of the advertising world for years, overseeing a broad team that brokered major marketing partnerships, helped develop NBC Universal’s streaming options, criticized outdated industry practices and generated more than $100 billion in ad sales. She has been heavily involved in the network’s handling of conferences such as the Super Bowl and the Olympic Games. She is also a reliable presence at glitzy promotional events, such as the Cannes Lions festival in the south of France.
The talks about Twitter’s CEO come at a sensitive time for Yaccarino, who is slated to address NBCUniversal’s biggest clients next week in advance of an annual pitch to woo advertisers.
Mr. Musk had raised the idea of a CEO for Twitter in December after he was criticized for some of his decisions at the company. He ran a poll on Twitter at the time asking if he should step down as head of the company. “I will follow the results of the vote,” he wrote.
More than 17 million votes were cast in the survey, and around 58 percent of respondents said they were in favor of him stepping down as CEO. In February, speaking at a conference in Dubai, Musk said he aimed to appoint a new Twitter chief by the end of 2023.
Twitter’s workers were not notified of a new CEO until Mr. Musk’s tweet, according to two employees.
Musk has also been under pressure from investors in his other companies – notably electric car maker Tesla – to step away from the day-to-day management of Twitter, which they have seen as a distraction. Shares in Tesla, which were little changed for most of the day, rose after Mr. Musk’s tweet, rising about 2 percent in the final minutes of trading on Thursday.
Mr. Musk has previously relinquished some leadership responsibilities in his other companies. At SpaceX, his private rocket maker, he has delegated much of the running of the company to Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer. That has freed Mr. Musk to focus on engineering and product decisions, and to move among his various companies.