Tech

Twitter’s Chief Tries Staying the Course as Elon Musk Upends Plans

SAN FRANCISCO — At a digital assembly for Twitter executives final week, Parag Agrawal admitted he was exhausted.

Mr. Agrawal, Twitter’s chief government, had spent the previous six weeks steering the corporate by means of a $44 billion sale to Elon Musk, the world’s richest particular person. Some staff have been rebelling overtly in opposition to their new proprietor, who had criticized the social media service and its executives. Others have been upset at Mr. Agrawal’s latest company shake-ups. And Mr. Musk appeared more likely to power Mr. Agrawal from his job.

On the assembly, Mr. Agrawal was “uncooked” about Twitter’s points and the hurricane of consideration over Mr. Musk’s deal, two individuals with data of the occasion stated. However he additionally conveyed a way of acceptance of his state of affairs and stated he would transfer ahead along with his plans for the corporate, they stated.

Mr. Agrawal touched on areas that he stated have been key to enhance upon: Twitter’s core product, the corporate’s depth of know-how, the enterprise, free speech throughout the platform and, importantly, what management seems to be like. Some executives left the assembly energized, the individuals stated.

It was what Mr. Agrawal might do given the circumstances. That’s due to all the highest jobs in tech, the 38-year-old is in what would be the most not possible one.

The Indian-born government, a protégé of the Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, has been answerable for the corporate solely since November. He was anticipated to show Twitter round after years of missed progress and monetary targets. However Mr. Musk swooped in inside months, primarily turning Mr. Agrawal right into a lame duck who should handle a restive work power and take care of Twitter’s mounting financial challenges earlier than he’s more likely to be booted from the corporate.

“There’s nobody on the earth who would wish to be in these footwear,” stated Bob Sutton, an organizational psychologist and professor at Stanford College.

But at the same time as Mr. Agrawal grapples with the state of affairs, he faces a mushy touchdown. If Mr. Musk removes him as chief government, Mr. Agrawal stands to make $60 million, in keeping with securities filings. (In November, he was granted a compensation package of an annual wage of $1 million, plus bonuses, in addition to restricted inventory models and performance-based inventory models valued at $12.5 million.)

Mr. Agrawal appeared at Twitter’s annual shareholder assembly on Wednesday, which was held nearly. He and different executives stated they may not talk about the phrases of the deal, which shareholders will vote on at a later date, till the transaction closed. Additionally they fielded shareholder questions on Twitter’s merchandise, misinformation, and the significance of range and inclusion initiatives.

Twitter’s board additionally underwent adjustments on Wednesday. It was Mr. Dorsey’s final day on the board. And Egon Durban, a non-public fairness government and Twitter board member, resigned after not receiving sufficient shareholder votes to find out whether or not he would proceed serving. Twitter’s board is contemplating his resignation, however might decline and ask him to remain on; the corporate is predicted to difficulty a choice on Thursday.

Behind the scenes, staff and advisers stated, Mr. Agrawal has been working with bankers and board members to shut Twitter’s sale to Mr. Musk, regardless that the billionaire has lately urged he needs to renegotiate and has made barbed feedback in regards to the firm.

Mr. Agrawal has additionally doubled down on his plans to overtake Twitter whereas he can. This month, he fired two high executives, paused most hiring and pulled again on discretionary spending after the corporate missed monetary targets. He additionally plans to reinforce Twitter’s options utilizing machine studying, and needs to make the platform extra engaging to new customers and transfer extra swiftly to debut new merchandise, in keeping with a presentation at an organization assembly this month.

“I do know we’ve been going by means of a interval of uncertainty,” Mr. Agrawal stated at that assembly, in keeping with a recording of it that was obtained by The New York Instances. “We’re shifting our focus again to our work.”

Mr. Agrawal joined Twitter as an engineer in 2011 whereas finishing his doctoral research in pc science at Stanford. He then rose steadily by means of the corporate’s ranks, changing into chief know-how officer in 2017. He has spent most of his profession on the firm and has greater than 610,000 followers on the service.

As chief know-how officer, Mr. Agrawal labored on a few of Twitter’s sophisticated technical challenges and constructed relationships along with his engineering friends and Mr. Dorsey. He shared Mr. Dorsey’s imaginative and prescient that Twitter’s future hinged on overhauling its know-how so it might rely extra on machine studying and decentralize its companies to provide customers extra management over their experiences on the platform.

When Mr. Dorsey handed the reins to Mr. Agrawal in November, the engineer went from overseeing a handful of staff to immediately managing greater than 7,000 individuals. “My belief in him as our C.E.O. is bone-deep,” Mr. Dorsey stated on the time.

Mr. Agrawal instantly made adjustments. Days after changing into chief government, he dismissed two high executives liable for design and engineering. He gave remaining leaders broader tasks. In inner emails seen by The Instances, he confused accountability, saying the brand new construction would make clear who was liable for what duties and pace up decision-making.

In January, Mr. Agrawal pushed out two safety executives. In an inner memo, he stated the group was not being led in keeping with his expectations, which was affecting top-priority work.

Credit score…Twitter, by way of Getty Pictures

Some Twitter staff applauded the strikes, saying that a number of the ousted executives had been sluggish or had bullied employees. Others have been shocked that Mr. Agrawal had dismissed longtime leaders and located him inscrutable.

By March, Mr. Musk had began build up a big stake in Twitter. On March 31, Mr. Agrawal spoke with Mr. Musk to pitch him on becoming a member of Twitter’s board, in keeping with a regulatory submitting. Mr. Musk initially agreed, then reversed course. Mr. Musk stated he was additionally weighing a bid to take Twitter non-public and had an thought of beginning a brand new social media firm, in keeping with the submitting.

It was Mr. Agrawal’s first brush with Mr. Musk’s unpredictable type, which rapidly turned routine. Mr. Musk quickly launched a takeover bid for the corporate, sealed the deal after which needled Mr. Agrawal on Twitter over points akin to pretend accounts. When Mr. Agrawal tried addressing the issues on Twitter, Mr. Musk responded by sending him a poop emoji.

At Twitter, some staff soured on Mr. Agrawal, in keeping with 10 present and former staff who spoke on the situation of anonymity. He instructed employees he couldn’t share data on the take care of Mr. Musk as particulars have been hashed out. He was additionally initially quiet at firm conferences, they stated, and was absent from an inner worker chat.

Mr. Agrawal’s supporters stated he was legally restricted from sharing details about the deal, in keeping with two individuals with data of the matter, and internally he expressed his frustrations with being unable to initially say extra in regards to the deal. After the settlement was signed, Twitter held workers conferences and despatched greater than a dozen emails to replace employees. Final week, Twitter let staff ask Vijaya Gadde, the top of authorized and coverage, and Ned Segal, the chief monetary officer, questions in regards to the deal.

Mr. Agrawal’s defenders stated he’s extra gregarious and charming in smaller group settings. They added that his adjustments have been lengthy overdue, particularly at an organization that had been resistant to alter.

In Slack messages and group chats, different staff have expressed pleasure for Mr. Musk’s possession, believing his ardour for Twitter might re-energize the corporate.

However Mr. Agrawal has detractors. At firm conferences in latest weeks, he generally stated that nothing would change “right now.” Some staff have mocked his feedback, creating memes of Mr. Agrawal making these repeated assurances, the individuals stated.

Many staff stay unsure about their futures on the firm, a number of individuals stated. Some are additionally bristling on the golden parachutes that Mr. Agrawal and different high executives will obtain if they’re fired after the take care of Mr. Musk closes, the individuals stated.

Mr. Agrawal has instructed confidants that he’ll perform his plans reasonably than merely ready for Mr. Musk to take over. After slashing spending and freezing almost all hiring on the firm this month, he tried to rally employees.

“Throughout this time of change, it’s important that we proceed to strengthen our work by means of elevated accountability and execution to make Twitter the whole lot it may be,” he wrote in an e-mail to staff, which was seen by The Instances. “Our objective is existential.”

Ryan Mac contributed reporting.

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