Why Linda Yaccarino was picked as Twitter CEO by Elon Musk

SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk’s choice of Linda Yaccarino for Twitter CEO appears aimed at solving multiple problems facing the social media site — and the billionaire himself — following his tumultuous takeover of the company in October.

Musk’s rapid changes and unpredictable behavior at Twitter have left many advertisers wary of doing business with the platform, which has revalued itself at less than half of the October $44 billion as it struggles to generate enough revenue. Musk, meanwhile, has faced business pressures elsewhere in his empire — as investors have urged him to return his attention to Tesla, the world’s most valuable automaker and the key to his massive fortune.

Yaccarino, an advertising executive who served as NBC Universal’s chairman of global advertising and partnerships, brings vast experience generating revenue and partnerships with key brands, and will also need to balance the need to implement Musk’s policies aimed at maximizing his vision of “free speech.”

Musk has loosened many of the site’s rules, let back on thousands of banned accounts and has gotten himself into trouble on occasion with tweets, including one spreading misinformation about an attack on Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s husband.

During her tenure, Yaccarino consolidated many of NBCUniversal’s individual marketing and sales team — for Bravo TV, Peacock, USA, Syfy and other NBCU operating units — into one centralized marketing and sales structure for the company. She is well-known among CEOs and marketing executives and can serve as a “Band-Aid” to some of Musk’s fractured relationships in that arena, a person close to her who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters told The Washington Post.

NBCUniversal announced her departure from the company Friday morning.

“It has been an absolute honor to be part of Comcast NBCUniversal and lead the most incredible team,” Yaccarino said in a statement. “We’ve transformed our company and the entire industry — and I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together.”

Musk and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

Musk announced Yaccarino was taking the helm in a tweet, saying he was excited to welcome her.

She “will focus primarily on business operations, while I focus on product design & new technology,” he said. “Looking forward to working with Linda to transform this platform into X, the everything app.”

Yaccarino has worked closely with Twitter, which counts NBCUniversal as its largest media partner, on trying to squeeze advertising dollars out of big sports moments such as the World Cup and the Olympics. Just last week, NBCU announced an expanded deal with Twitter for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, which includes a so-called “Paris 25-Day Countdown” featuring daily athlete or event clips leading into the Opening Ceremonies, and real-time highlights and an exclusive live Twitter show during the Games.

Yaccarino has praised Musk publicly at different moments, as she did after a recent appearance on the Bill Maher show, and she has told colleagues that people get hung up on his erratic tweets but that she sees him as ready to establish business partnerships behind the scenes.

In 2018 Donald Trump named her to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. As Ad Council chair, Yaccarino also partnered with the Biden White House in 2021 to create a coronavirus vaccine campaign featuring Pope Francis.

Yaccarino has worked at NBCUniversal for nearly 12 years — with her team generating more than $100 billion in ad sales since 2011, per her company bio. She previously served as NBC’s chair for advertising and client partnerships and as president of cable entertainment and digital advertising sales. Before NBC, Yaccarino worked for Ted Turner at Turner Broadcasting Systems, where she spent almost twenty years.

A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Yaccarino got her start in the media industry as an intern at NBCUniversal’s media planning department, where, she told Salesforce, her “love affair” with media began. She spent nearly two decades in advertising, marketing and acquisitions at Turner before moving back to NBC, where she’s worked for more than a decade.

The timing of naming a new CEO is beneficial for Musk. Tesla holds its annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday in Austin. Musk has hinted, as recently as Thursday night, at the need to demonstrate his commitment to the electric vehicle company.

“We believe Musk leaving CEO of Twitter earlier than originally thought by the end of the year is a positive development for Tesla as well as SpaceX with Musk needing to spend more and more time on these golden child platforms rather than Twitter,” Dan Ives, analyst with Wedbush Securities, said in an analyst note. Ives praised Musk “finally reading the room” and “trying to balance Twitter, Tesla, and SpaceX as CEOs an impossible task that needed to change.”

“There is heavy lifting ahead for Twitter on the digital advertising front as the platform now needs to get back advertisers while monetizing its user base,” Ives wrote.

Since taking over Twitter, the company has shed around 80 percent of its prior staff of 7,500 and embarked on significant cost-cutting that has at times affected the reliability of the site, which has faced repeated outages prompted by site changes. Meanwhile, Musk’s team has restored thousands of previously banned accounts, and brought back high-profile users such as former president Donald Trump and Musk’s favorite self-described Christian satirical site the Babylon Bee. Musk has also pushed a curated, algorithmically driven timeline and a subscription model that charges $8 a month for Twitter’s signature blue badges denoting verification, redefining a model he decried as a “lords & peasants system.”

Musk’s controversial moves have at times resulted in backlash. After Twitter rolled out a policy limiting users’ ability to promote outside social media websites, before reversing the decision, Musk launched an unscientific poll on whether he should step down.

Of more than 17 million votes, 57.5 percent of respondents said Musk should give up the role.

Musk agreed, saying he would relinquish the job upon finding someone “foolish enough to take the job.”

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