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 govt, had spent the previous six weeks steering the corporate by a $44 billion sale to Elon Musk, the world’s richest individual. Some workers had been overtly revolting towards their new proprietor, who had criticized the social media service and its executives. Others had been upset at Mr. Agrawal’s current company shake-ups. And Mr Musk appeared prone 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 folks with data of the occasion mentioned. However he additionally conveyed a way of acceptance of his scenario and mentioned he would transfer ahead along with his plans for the corporate, they mentioned.

Mr. Agrawal touched on areas that he mentioned had been key to enhance upon: Twitter’s core product, the corporate’s depth of expertise, the enterprise, free speech throughout the platform, and, importantly, what management seems like. Some executives left the assembly energized, the folks mentioned.

It was what Mr Agrawal may do given the circumstances. That is due to all the highest jobs in tech, the 38-year-old is in what often is the most unattainable one.

The Indian-born govt, a protégé of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, has been in command of the corporate solely since November. He was anticipated to show Twitter round after years of missed development and monetary objectives. However Mr. Musk swooped in inside months, basically 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 doubtless will get booted from the corporate.

“There is no one on the earth who would wish to be in these footwear,” mentioned Bob Sutton, an organizational psychologist and professor at Stanford College.

But at the same time as Mr. Agrawal grapples with the scenario, he faces a gentle touchdown. If Mr Musk removes him as chief govt, Mr Agrawal stands to make tens of hundreds of thousands, in keeping with securities filings. (In November, he was granted a compensation package deal of an annual wage of $1 million, plus bonuses, in addition to restricted inventory items and performance-based inventory items valued at $12.5 million.)

Mr. Agrawal will seem at Twitter’s annual shareholder assembly on Wednesday, which can be held just about. He and different executives aren’t anticipated to handle the take care of Mr Musk, which shareholders will vote on at a later date. As a substitute, Mr. Agrawal will hold the assembly procedural and quick, in keeping with a regulatory submitting.

Behind the scenes, workers and advisers mentioned, Mr. Agrawal has been working with bankers and board members to shut Twitter’s sale to Mr. Musk, regardless that the billionaire has not too long ago urged he wished to renegotiate and has made barbed feedback concerning the firm.

Mr. Agrawal has additionally doubled down on his plans to overtake Twitter whereas he can. This month, he fired two prime executives, paused most hiring and pulled again on discretionary spending after the corporate missed monetary objectives. He additionally plans to reinforce Twitter’s options utilizing machine studying, desires to make the platform extra enticing 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 have been going by a interval of uncertainty,” Mr. Agrawal mentioned at that assembly, in keeping with a recording of it that was obtained by The New York Occasions. “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 the corporate’s ranks, turning into chief expertise 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 expertise 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 expertise so it may rely extra on machine studying and decentralize its providers to present 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 workers to immediately managing greater than 7,000 folks. “My belief in him as our CEO is bone-deep,” Mr. Dorsey mentioned on the time.

Mr Agrawal instantly made adjustments. Days after turning into chief govt, he dismissed two prime executives accountable for design and engineering. He gave remaining leaders broader tasks. In inside emails seen by The Occasions, he confused accountability, saying the brand new construction would make clear who was accountable for what duties and velocity up decision-making.

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

Credit score…Twitter, by way of Getty Photos

Some Twitter workers applauded the strikes, saying that among the ousted executives had been sluggish or had bullied employees. Others had been shocked that Mr. Agrawal had dismissed long-time leaders and located him instructable.

By March, Mr. Musk had began increase 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 mentioned 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.

How Elon Musk’s Twitter Deal Unfolded

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A blockbuster deal. Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, capped what appeared an inconceivable try by the famously mercurial billionaire to purchase Twitter for roughly $44 billion. This is how the deal unfolded:

The preliminary provide. Mr. Musk made an unsolicited bid price greater than $40 billion for the influential social community, saying that he wished to make Twitter a personal firm and that he wished folks to have the ability to communicate extra freely on the service.

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

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

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

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

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

However Mr Agrawal has detractors. At firm conferences in current weeks, he typically mentioned that nothing would change “right now.” Some workers have mocked his feedback, creating memes of Mr. Agrawal making these repeated assurances, the folks mentioned.

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

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

“Throughout this time of change, it is important that we proceed to strengthen our work by elevated accountability and execution to make Twitter every thing it may be,” he wrote in an e mail to workers, which was seen by The Occasions. “Our goal is existential.”

Ryan Mac contributed reporting.

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