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Elon Musk says he will resign as Twitter CEO once he finds a replacement

Elon Musk (center), standing with former President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner (left) look on during the World Cup Final between Argentina and France in Qatar on December 18.
Dan Mullan
/
Getty Images
Elon Musk (center), standing with former President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner (left) look on during the World Cup Final between Argentina and France in Qatar on December 18.

Billionaire Elon Musk says he will step down as chief executive of Twitter as soon as he finds someone "foolish enough" to succeed him.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Musk confirmed that he is searching for his replacement, though he gave no timeline for the process.

Musk's tweet comes two days after he launched a poll on the social network in which the majority of respondents voted for his ouster.

Even when Musk finds a new person to head Twitter, he will still be the owner and ultimate decision-maker at the company.

Musk indicated as much in his tweet, saying he would "just run the software & servers teams," and last month, he told Twitter employees that the company would become "a software and servers company" under his ownership.

After Musk received immediate blowback for suspending the Twitter accounts of several journalists, the billionaire took to his platform Sunday to pose a question: "Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll."

Some 17 million voted in the unscientific poll and nearly 58% of the votes supported Musk stepping down as CEO.

"As the saying goes, be careful what you wish, as you might get it," Musk tweeted after launching the poll.

Musk has previously said it was never his intention to stay CEO of Twitter for the long term, yet his tweet on Tuesday comes amid renewed scrutiny of his ability to lead the social media company.

Since Musk took over Twitter in late October, there has been a constant barrage of erratic decisions and turmoil at the company. From laying off more than half of the staff to reinstating the account of former President Trump, Musk has ruled Twitter based on what seem to be his ever-changing whims, with few checks on his decisions. Nearly all of Twitter's top executives have either been fired or quit since Musk took the reins.

Amid the chaos, major advertisers have fled the platform, while Musk has repeatedly suggested Twitter could be on the verge of bankruptcy. Longtime analysts of the site doubt that, suggesting Musk could be floating the idea of insolvency as cover for his cost-cutting measures.

The confusion and disarray at Twitter had some Tesla investors fretting that Musk was too distracted to lead both companies. The electric car company accounts for most of Musk's wealth, yet Twitter has been eating up Musk's schedule. Tesla shares have fallen 56% this year, with some investors suggesting Musk needed to stop trying to juggle leading both operations.

Last week, Tesla investor Ross Gerber told Tesla's board of directors to "wake up."

Gerber added in the tweet: "Who is running tesla and when is Elon coming back?"

Gerber had been a loyal backer of Musk. He told NPR in November that he thought Musk had made a number of mistakes since buying Twitter, but that he continued to support the billionaire.

"I'm never betting against this guy," Gerber said at the time.

A brief policy shift leads to broad outcry

Twitter announced a new policy on Sunday that took many users aback: It said tweets including links to other social media sites would no longer be allowed, calling such posts "free promotion."

The policy was quickly reversed, but not before upsetting some of Musk's most vocal supporters.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who previously endorsed Musk's takeover of the platform, questioned the policy, saying on Twitter that it "doesn't make sense."

Others who had backed Musk's bid for Twitter appeared frustrated at the decision. Venture capitalist Paul Graham wrote of the policy, "This is the last straw. I give up."

That tweet also pointed to rival social media site Mastodon, triggered a brief suspension of Graham's Twitter account.

Musk offered a rare apology in response to the outcry.

"Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes. My apologies. Won't happen again," Musk tweeted.

Three minutes later, Musk launched the poll asking whether it was time for him to step down as head of Twitter and promising to abide by the poll results.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.