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Who could become the CEO of Twitter if Elon Musk steps down

The following is a free preview from last week Command Line, my new weekly newsletter on the technology industry’s internal conversation:

Elon Musk has said that he will find a new CEO of Twitter by users voted for him to go. But who would, i his own wordsbe “stupid enough to take the job”?

It’s a question I’ve been asking in conversations over the past week. Based on my checks with people who would know, it doesn’t appear that Musk is running a formal search yet. And given his inclination to lie go back on his word, maybe he’s not trying to find anyone. Complicating matters is that he said that even after finding a CEO, he will still run the “software and server teams.” It’s basically the whole company.

For what it’s worth, I think Musk will eventually find a CEO, not just because he told the Twitter investors he wanted to, but because it’s the rational thing for him to do. Below are the names that have been sent to me as good candidates should Musk actually hand over the reins to Twitter. (I’m not including the obvious members of Musk’s transition team who helped him in the early days of the takeover—namely David Sacks, Jason Calacanis, and Sriram Krishnan — since I read that they are not in a position to take the job if asked.)

Sheryl Sandberg, former Meta COO

Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

Benefits: This choice is perhaps the most obvious choice, especially if Musk does what he says and continues to lead engineering at Twitter after naming a new CEO. Sandberg has the rep with advertisers and connections Musk needs to begin repairing Twitter’s spiraling business. And she is a free agent after leaving the Meta last year.

Disadvantages: Musk is no fan of Facebook and I don’t think they would get along. Sandberg also seems content to focus on philanthropy and family life these days.

Emmett Shear, co-founder and CEO of Twitch

TED2019: Bigger than us

Photo by Lawrence Sumulong/Getty Images

Benefits: While Shear wasn’t on my list of possible names until I started asking around, I’m coming around to the idea. As the co-founder and current head of Twitch, he has successfully sold a social media company to a tech giant and has the experience Musk needs for his plan to make Twitter more of a video platform for creators. Also, I’ve heard that the Twitch organization is in disarray lately.

Disadvantages: He has not led a public company, and Musk plans to bring Twitter back to the public markets in several years. And Twitch hasn’t been able to expand outside of its core niche of gamer livestreams.

Vanessa Pappas, TikTok COO

TikTok House Party at VidCon 2022

Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for TikTok

Benefits: She has the experience Musk needs, having helped set up YouTube’s early creator program and more recently as COO of TikTok. I’ve also heard whispers that she might be planning an exit from TikTok/ByteDance sometime this year.

Fool: If Musk is mainly looking for someone the big advertisers know to lead Twitter, she wouldn’t be the top choice since her focus has been mainly on products and creators.

Jim Lanzone, CEO of Yahoo

MAKERS conference 2022 – day one

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MAKERS Conference

Benefits: Lanzone’s background is more in media and advertising, apart from his brief stint as CEO of Tinder. He now leads Yahoo, but may jump for the right opportunity. He has the connections with the advertising community and the operations experience that Musk could use and the constitution to deal with Musk’s antics.

Fool: Unclear if he wants to work for Musk and take on the headache that is Twitter right now.

Kevin Systrom, Instagram co-founder

2019 New York Times Dealbook

Photo by Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times

Benefits: In terms of pedigree and product chops, the Instagram co-founder and former CEO is definitely a top pick. He’s been quiet since leaving Instagram/Facebook in 2018 after clashing with Mark Zuckerberg, although he did show his interest in the TikTok social media model — which removes feed recommendations from someone’s social graph — on Lex Fridman’s podcast last year. That’s exactly what Musk wants Twitter to focus on, too.

Disadvantages: He’s already worked for a meaningful founder/CEO, made a lot of money, and probably won’t do it all again. Nor does it have the degree of influence in the advertising environment that Musk is probably looking for.

Honorable mentions floated to me: Adam Bain, Susan Wojcicki, Sarah Friar, Kayvon Beykpour, and Kevin Weil. Am I missing someone else? Let me know…

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