NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino in talks to become Twitter chief – Report – Deadline
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UPDATE: NBCUniversal confirmed that head of sales Linda Yaccarino is leaving the company, amid reports that she will become Twitter’s new CEO.
Mark Marshall, currently president of advertising sales and client partnerships, will become interim chairman of NBCU’s advertising and partnerships group. He will report to Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming.
Comcast President Mike Cavanaugh said, “We are grateful for Linda Yaccarino’s leadership of NBCUniversal’s advertising sales business, and for the innovative team and platform she has built.”
Yaccarino has been with the company for 12 years.
Elon Musk announced Thursday that he is handing over the reins as CEO to an unnamed figure. That immediately sparked speculation about his successor, and hours later The Wall Street Journal reported that Yaccarino had been hired for the job.
EARLIER, May 11: In a potentially seismic shift on the eve of the upfront broadcast, it emerged Thursday night that NBCUniversal head of sales Linda Yaccarino is reportedly in discussions to become Twitter’s new CEO.
The The Wall Street Journalhis report on the hiring Thursday night raised eyebrows and hackles over the timing. On Monday morning, Yaccarino will take the stage at Radio City Music Hall, making her 4,000-plus ad buyers. Instead, one of the biggest media companies is left to grapple with its third major crisis in the past two weeks, after CEO Jeff Shell abruptly quit and the writers’ strike began.
Sources first reached by Deadline were generally uneasy, to say the least, though a significant sign may have come last month when Yaccarino and Musk appeared together in a keynote address at a conference in Miami. NBCU and Twitter shortly after revealed a major renewal of their advertising partnership around the Olympics. That announcement was accompanied by bouquet-throwing from NBCU, a contrast to the sentiment in recent months from many advertisers and media agency executives who were skeptical of Twitter’s legitimacy under Musk.
When contacted by Deadline about the potential news Thursday night, Yaccarino’s top NBCU communications rep responded only that “Linda is in back-to-back rehearsals for Upfront.” Twitter’s communications apparatus has been dismantled since Musk’s $44 billion takeover. The official press email address for general inquiries has recently been set to automatically reply with a poop emoji.
Musk is also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, and took on the title on Twitter, though he styled himself as Chief Twit. He also asked his 139 million followers the question of whether he should step down as CEO of the social media company (verdict: yes).
As a new entity has emerged from tumultuous beginnings to its new ownership, advertising quickly became one of the company’s key vulnerabilities. Musk has fired most of the company’s workers and opened the throttle on content many brands find offensive. While Musk has launched an effort to bring in revenue via subscriptions like Twitter Blue and the infamous blue badge, it didn’t gain much initial traction. The handling of the verification scheme (in the past Twitter determined through internal means which users were legitimate) was so thoroughly flawed that fraudsters were able to impersonate large companies. Drugmaker Eli Lilly’s shares took a hit after a tweet from a handle with a fake blue check and a company logo spread the joking claim that insulin drugs would be given away for free.
While Musk argued that paid subscriptions would help give users a less cluttered experience and eliminate bots, advertising remains at the core of the business. At the time of the takeover, Twitter made more than 90% of its money from ads.
Yaccarino, a 12-year veteran of NBCU and before that the networks formerly under the Turner banner, has gained credibility in industry circles for his assertiveness and, when the situation calls for it, fight. She was an early and vocal critic of Nielsen, now a common stance, but was also willing to publicly question the viability of YouTube, Google and Facebook for blue-chip advertisers at a time when they vacuumed up 80 cents of every ad dollar , but also intimidate advertisers by placing their messages next to inappropriate videos that circulate freely on the platform.
The Yaccarino report comes after Musk tweeted earlier Thursday that he was “thrilled to announce that I have hired a new CEO of X/Twitter,” saying it would be a woman, but did not name her.
“She starts in ~6 weeks!” Musk wrote, adding: “My role will transition to being a leader and CTO, overseeing products, software and sysops.” (The 6-week timeframe will allow Yaccarino to leave the spring crescendo of the media ad sales calendar, when the TV season ends, advance notice of the next season, and a growing number of executives then head to Cannes Lions in June.)
Musk said in December that he would step down as CEO as soon as he found someone “stupid enough to take the job.” It came after Musk, who bought the social media giant for $44 billion, promised to follow the results of a Twitter poll asking users whether he should step down. More than 57% voted “yes”.
Yaccarino, who has been with NBCU since 2011, currently holds the title of Chairman of Global Advertising and Partnerships in the Comcast division. She oversees all global, national and local ad sales, partnerships, marketing, ad technology, data, measurement and strategic initiatives, according to her bio, which says she and her team have generated more than $100 billion in ad sales.
— Ted Johnson contributed to this report.