Elon Musk is in talks to hire Linda Yaccarino, the chair of global advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal, as chief executive of Twitter, two people with knowledge of the matter said.
The talks are at an advanced stage, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the conversations are confidential. Ms. Yaccarino has been in discussions with Mr. Musk for weeks, they said. Last month, Ms. Yaccarino interviewed Mr. Musk onstage at an advertising event in Miami.
Mr. Musk had said earlier on Thursday that he had selected a chief executive for Twitter but did not identify the executive. In a tweet, he said “she will be starting in ~6 weeks!” He added that he would remain involved as executive chair and “CTO,” which typically denotes chief technology officer, and that he would still oversee Twitter’s product and software.
Mr. Musk and Ms. Yaccarino did not respond to requests for comment. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Ms. Yaccarino was in talks with Mr. Musk.
Mr. Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion last year, will retain a firm grip on the company even if he names a chief executive. As Twitter’s owner, he has put his stamp on it by eliminating more than 75 percent of its 7,500 employees, installing his own leaders and changing the service’s features and strategy. He also took Twitter private, which means he does not have to disclose corporate information to the public.
Any new chief executive is set to inherit a litany of challenges at Twitter. The company faces a sagging 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 decline in ad revenue and had been on the path to bankruptcy within months of being purchased.
Some of Twitter’s advertising woes were related to a broader slump driven by uncertainty in the global economy. But Mr. Musk also spooked advertisers after buying Twitter by throwing out guardrails on what kind of posts would be allowed on the social media service. Brands typically do not want to run ads alongside toxic content.
IPG, one of the world’s largest advertising companies, issued a recommendation in the fall through its media agencies for clients to temporarily pause their spending on Twitter because of moderation concerns.
Last month, in an interview with the BBC, Mr. Musk said that most of Twitter’s advertisers had returned.
In Ms. Yaccarino, Twitter would get an executive with deep ties to the advertising industry and with extensive experience in the media sector. Ms. Yaccarino, whose star has risen over the course of a long career at NBCUniversal, has personal relationships with most of the chief executives of the advertising holding companies, a key constituency for Twitter.
She has moved in the top echelons of the advertising world for years, overseeing a sprawling team that has brokered major marketing partnerships, helped develop NBC Universal’s streaming options, criticized outdated industry practices and generated more than $100 billion in advertising sales. She has been heavily involved in the network’s dealings with marquee events such as the Super Bowl and the Olympic Games. She is also a reliable presence at glittering advertising events, such as the Cannes Lions festival in the South of France.
The conversations about Twitter’s chief executive come at a delicate time for Ms. Yaccarino, who is slated to address NBCUniversal’s biggest clients next week in the upfronts, an annual pitch to woo advertisers.
Mr. Musk had raised the idea of a chief executive 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 the head of the company. “I will abide by the results of the poll,” he wrote.
More than 17 million votes were cast in the poll, with some 58 percent of respondents saying they were in favor of him stepping down as chief executive. In February, while speaking at a conference in Dubai, Mr. Musk said he was aiming to name a new Twitter chief executive by the end of 2023.
Twitter’s workers were not notified of a new chief executive before Mr. Musk’s tweet, according to two employees.
Mr. Musk has also been under pressure from investors at his other companies — notably the electric carmaker Tesla — to move away from day-to-day management of Twitter, which they have regarded as a distraction. Shares of Tesla, which were little changed for most of the day, jumped after Mr. Musk’s tweet, rising about 2 percent in the final minutes of trading on Thursday.
Mr. Musk has previously ceded some leadership responsibilities at his other companies. At SpaceX, his private rocket manufacturer, he has delegated much of the running of the firm 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.
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