CEOs Who Might Replace Elon Musk at Twitter, Ranked

CEOs Who Might Replace Elon Musk at Twitter, Ranked

Musk has been quite candid in acknowledging that it'll be hard to find someone who wants the job. We rank the likeliest candidates to get an offer.

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Elon Musk is destroying Twitter and Twitter is destroying Elon Musk’s life and fortune. Now that the man himself has publicly agreed to switch horses midstream, who will be the next CEO of Twitter?

“I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday. “After that, I will just run the software and servers teams.” The confirmation came more than a day after the Tesla CEO ran a Twitter poll asking if users want him to step down. Of the respondents, 57.5% said he should hit the road.

Since the poll, Musk has made numerous comments about what a tough job it will be for anyone who wants it. So much has happened since Musk first offered to buy the social media company in April, it seems like many people have forgotten that Musk himself didn’t want the job and he fought tooth and nail to get out of his agreement. He also said in November that he planned to eventually find a new leader for Twitter, and he’s probably regretting not making an offer to someone (anyone!) at the time.

Now Twitter is in a much worse position than before. In its last earnings report as a public company, it posted a loss of $270 million. As part of financing the purchase, Musk has added significant debt to the balance sheets along with $1.5 billion a year in interest payments.

But the troubles at Tesla are likely a bigger headache for Musk. More than half of the company’s stock value has been wiped out since Musk first offered to purchase Twitter. Its value has hit a two-year low. And on Monday, Wall Street analysts at the firm Oppenheimer & Co downgraded Tesla’s stock, saying:

We believe banning journalists without consistent defensible standards or clear communication in an environment where many people believe free speech is at risk is too much for a majority of consumers to continue supporting Mr. Musk/TSLA, particularly people ideologically aligned with climate change mitigation.

The analyst comments come after a tumultuous week in which Musk made erratic policy changes that seemed aimed at banning journalists from Twitter. Over the weekend, he managed to piss off basically everyone by prohibiting Twitter users from promoting their accounts on other social media platforms. The policy was quickly reversed, but the damage was done. The desperation of seemingly trying to block the exits for users who’ve had enough and the blatant violation of his own free speech standards even offended the richest Silicon Valley ghouls who’ve been cheering on Musk’s moves as a valuable experiment for testing how terribly a CEO can treat their employees.

Executives who are tired of listening to their staff’s concerns may want to watch Elon burn it down as a case study, but that doesn’t mean they want to take part in the exercise. They’d much rather see if he makes it out alive first. So yeah, Musk is going to have a tough time finding a qualified person to take over as CEO who is simultaneously willing to implement the big boss’s whims and take the public backlash for the chaos they inevitably create.

Who will take this nightmare job? We have some guesses. They’re probably all wrong, but we’re hedging our bets by picking individuals as well as the category of CEO candidate that they fall into. If our specific picks fall short, we’re confident that someone like them will be chosen or at least considered. Click through to read the wild speculation and if you’re actually on this list turn around and run while you can.

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9. Travis Kalanick 

9. Travis Kalanick 

Travis Kalanick accepts an award
Photo: Steve Jennings (Getty Images)

Category of Candidate: Silicon Valley “royalty.”

The logical place to start a CEO hunt for a major tech company would be to look for a candidate who has previously run a major tech company. This narrows our options. But Musk has implied that people won’t be happy about his choice, so we have to consider which tech CEO would annoy people the most. Uber founder Travis Kalanick seems like he’d fit the criteria nicely.

Before Dara Khosrowshahi replaced him at Uber, Kalanick was known for abusing employees, engaging in alleged sexual misconduct, sabotaging workers’ rights, and engaging in shady practices to avoid regulatory scrutiny. These are all qualities that should appeal to Musk but I still don’t think Kalanick should be considered much of a contender.

The Uber founder is just too strong-willed and idiosyncratic in his own right to have any interest in doing Elon’s bidding. Besides, Kalanick seems determined to make a comeback with his cloud kitchen startup.

In a similar vein, WeWork founder Adam Neumann could probably check some boxes but he’s too weird and WeWork went bust.

If Elon wanted to put a woman in charge former Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer or former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg are available at the moment. I don’t think either would be interested in running Twitter. Both would ask for a lot of money and independence if they did.

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8. Jason Calacanis

8. Jason Calacanis

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Category of Candidate: Bloggers and Podcasters

Speculation about Calacanis taking a role at Twitter began shortly after Musk first tendered an offer to purchase the company in the spring. At the time, Calacanis was vaguely involved with the behind-the-scenes efforts to pull together investors who’d throw money into the Twitter deal. Since then, he’s become one of Musk’s most vocal sycophants but the idea of Calacanis being named CEO largely originates with Calacanis himself.

Court documents detailing Musk’s text messages related to the deal were revealed in September and showed Calacanis embarrassingly begging Musk for a chance to run it all. “Put me in the game coach,” he wrote. “Twitter CEO is my dream job.” The Tesla founder has generally seemed cold to this suggestion and on multiple occasions admonished Calacanis for getting too big for his britches.

Calacanis is mostly known for founding Weblogs Inc., an early blogging startup that he sold to AOL in 2005. He was able to take that money and do some angel investing but these days he’s mostly known as the co-host of the All-In Podcast.

I don’t know how successful Calacanis’s investments are but he came up during the times in Silicon Valley when you could offload a company for millions long before anyone figured out what it was really worth. Little is left of the Weblogs Inc. empire today. He doesn’t have much of a record as a businessman.

Take it from me, I just don’t see Musk putting an overrated blogger in charge.

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7. Jared Kushner

7. Jared Kushner

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Category of Candidate: Trump Princes/Saudi Princes

A new contender enters the ring. Donald Trump’s son-in-law and former secretary of peace in the Middle East Jared Kushner was spotted taking in the World Cup with Musk on Sunday. Hours later, Musk ran his poll asking if he should step down as Twitter’s CEO, leading many to speculate that he was considering Kushner as a replacement.

The biggest reason this would make sense is that both men are the recipients of billions of dollars of investment cash from the Saudis. That’s pretty much the only reason to think there’s a snowball’s chance in Mecca that these two will be working with each other.

Kushner’s father-in-law is currently wrapped up in a legal agreement to use Truth Social despite Musk’s desire to bring the former president back to Twitter. And Jared has indicated that he would rather stay out of the spotlight for now.

More than anything, this partnership doesn’t work because Jared is a drip with no swag. Elon would get very bored with trying to discern whatever lame shit Kushner tries to mutter at board meetings.

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6. Blake Masters

6. Blake Masters

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Category of Candidate: Run-of-the-mill cranks.

In that big court-ordered dump of Musk’s messages, an unidentified person texted the SpaceX founder with a little strategic advice, saying:

It will be a delicate game of letting rightwingers back on Twitter and how to navigate that (especially the boss himself, if you’re up forthat) I would also lay out the standards early but have someone who has a savvy cultural/political view to be the VP of actual enforcement

A Blake Masters type

That was before Blake Masters flamed out of the Arizona senate race in November. It was also before we learned that Musk has no interest in putting anyone in charge of moderation.

So, hey, why not put Masters in the Twitter CEO role?

Pros:

  • It would own the libs.
  • Masters has spent more than a decade as Peter Thiel’s lapdog, so it would be an easy transition.

Cons:

  • He’s a loser.
  • Doesn’t really have demonstrable business experience outside of his proximity to Thiel.

It’s clear that Masters has a lot going for him but Musk and Thiel’s relationship has always been a bit awkward. Thiel replaced Musk as PayPal’s CEO after Musk screwed up the company and was booted by the board. According to a source speaking to Thiel biographer Max Chafkin, “Peter thinks Musk is a fraud and a braggart,” and “Musk thinks Peter is a sociopath.”

They’re both right about each other and I think Musk would be too afraid of Masters loyalties remaining with Thiel.

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5. Lex Fridman

5. Lex Fridman

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Category of Candidate: People who will work for free.

Who? It’s another podcaster!

Lex Fridman hosts a tech podcast called the Lex Fridman Podcast and on Sunday, he volunteered to run Twitter for free. “Let me run Twitter for a bit. No salary. All in,” he tweeted. “Focus on great engineering and increasing the amount of love in the world. Just offering my help in the unlikely case it’s useful.”

Almost immediately, Musk replied, “You must like pain a lot. One catch: you have to invest your life savings in Twitter and it has been in the fast lane to bankruptcy since May. Still want the job?”

That’s not a no.

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4. James Murdoch

4. James Murdoch

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Category of Candidate: Characters from Succession.

James Murdoch is the son of Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch. He also sits on Tesla’s board of directors and is supposedly friends with Elon. Back in 2018 there was even heated speculation that Murdoch was in line to replace Musk as chairman of the board at the EV company. So, hey, maybe he has a shot at running Twitter?

Murdoch does have some experience managing media companies with his positions in his dad’s empire and his minority stake in Vice Media. Elon is clearly out of his depth in this business and could use someone who understands advertising.

On the other hand, Rupert Murdoch hates big tech, sees it as a threat to the family business, and failed miserably with his purchase of MySpace. Even if James wanted the job at Twitter, daddy might veto the move.

Murdoch’s life has had a directory toward eventually taking over Fox since the day he was born, but it’s possible he still has ambitions at Tesla as well. Last month, he testified at a trial over Musk’s compensation package and said that the Tesla founder had decided in the “last few months” who will be the next CEO when the day comes. “We’ve had conversations, certainly during the really tough times here,” Murdoch said. “You know, conversations about his exhaustion, about other things like that.” But he insisted that Musk had never explicitly threatened to step down.

There are too many good options for James to burn all his capital as a fall guy at Twitter.

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3. Jack Dorsey

3. Jack Dorsey

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Category of Candidate: Jacks.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey initially endorsed Musk as “the singular solution” he trusted to take over his baby. Since then, he’s seemed a bit baffled by Musk’s decisions and has publicly protested in very reserved terms. When Musk banned links that promote accounts on other social networks, Dorsey responded with comments like “why?” and “doesn’t make sense.”

Dorsey has also accused Musk and Twitter’s head of Trust and Safety of lying about past moderation practices and called for the company to release all of his old emails for the sake of transparency. All the while, Musk has seemingly taken great pains not to blame Dorsey for any of Twitter’s past sins, implying that the former CEO was used surrounded by a nasty group of people suffering from the “woke mind virus.”

If Musk asked, would Dorsey want to come back? It’s not the craziest idea. It would be quite the bit of tech theater kayfabe to have Musk spend the better part of a year trashing the house that Jack built just to bring him back. Musk could claim he got rid of all the libs who were preventing Dorsey from doing the right thing. Dorsey could mumble something.

But Dorsey’s other company, Block Inc., seems to be fairly low drama and he’s been focused on Bluesky protocol that is being pitched as a sort of decentralized version of Twitter. I don’t know if there’s much left for him at the bird app.

On Monday, Business Insider reported that Dorsey told data scientist Emily Gorcenski that he had “no choice” regarding Musk’s takeover of Twitter because it was a public company. “We should have never gone public,” Dorsey wrote in a DM. “Anyone could buy.”

Dorsey has been vocal about his regrets over taking Twitter public and a redo could give him a chance to make things right as a private company.

Of all the people on this list, Dorsey would probably be the wisest choice for replacing Elon. And that’s why Musk probably won’t do it.

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2. David Sacks

2. David Sacks

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Category of Candidate: People Elon seems to genuinely like.

Along with Jason Calacanis, David Sacks co-hosts the All-In Podcast. But Sacks and Musk have a relationship that goes back to their time working together at PayPal. And unlike Calacanis, Musk seems to genuinely respect Sacks.

Sacks is a hardcore right-winger who shares Musk’s obsession with dismantling “woke” culture. In 1995, he co-wrote The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford with Peter Thiel. The book was a screed against multiculturalism and diversity that was so extreme, Thiel ended up issuing an apology 20 years later. Among the book’s passages, the authors argued that “the purpose of the rape crisis movement seems as much about vilifying men as about raising ‘awareness’.”

Sacks is a real piece of shit, and thus, he’s a real contender for Twitter CEO.

Since this whole saga began, Sacks is the name that comes up most in reports of Elon’s behind-the-scenes strategizing and he keeps a steady drum beat of cheerleading going on his personal timeline.

Would he want the job if Musk offered it? I truly have no guesses. But it has to be better than hosting a podcast with Jason.

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1. Just Some Guy

1. Just Some Guy

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Category of Candidate: Stock images from an Onion article about a CEO.

See that guy pictured above? That’s SpaceX board member Steve Jurvetson. He was formerly a partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the kind of instantly forgettable name that venture capital firms love, until he left under a cloud of suspicion related to an investigation into sexual harassment.

I’m not saying that Jurvetson is the number 1 most likely choice for Twitter CEO, just that he’s the kind of guy that will probably be installed. He’s boring. This guy will have an MBA from Stanford, be in his mid-50s, have a bit of silver in his hair, and stand around 6' 2" tall. Most likely his first name will be one clean syllable. It might be Todd or Bill or Ray. Normally it would be fine but in this case, no Jacks are allowed.

Elon just needs some guy to manage things, keep his mouth shut, and reassure advertisers. This guy should not have opinions about anything and should not be too rich yet. He needs to be a little hungry for some ladder climbing.

It could also end up being a woman. Musk has hired women at the top level in the past. Gwynne Shotwell is president and COO of SpaceX and by most accounts, she actually runs the company. Musk himself testified under oath last month that he’s really “responsible for the engineering of the rockets” and downplayed his role on the business side of things. And earlier this month, Bill Nelson, the head of NASA, said that he’d spoken with Shotwell about whether Twitter was distracting Musk from what’s important. She reassured him everything was fine and Nelson said, “I hugged her with a smile on my face, because I know she is running that thing. She’s running SpaceX.”

Few people would know Shotwell’s name and fewer could pick her out of a lineup, but she seems to be doing a good job with SpaceX and that’s the kind of person Musk needs right now.

There’s no way that Musk could attract top talent to Twitter at this point, but his best bet is finding some faceless rando to come over and be an adult.

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