Elon Musk, after dramatically slashing Twitter’s headcount following his takeover of the social platform, said the company will try to rehire some of them — acknowledging that the job cuts were too deep.
Musk has slashed Twitter’s headcount by 80%, from 7,800 to about 1,500, as he has attempted to cut costs and get the company in the black. “Some people who were let go probably shouldn’t have been,” Musk said during an interview with CNBC anchor David Faber following the 2023 Tesla annual shareholder meeting Tuesday at the car maker’s headquarters in Austin, Texas.
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“Desperate times call for desperate measures… Unfortunately, if you do it fast, there are some babies who will be thrown out [with the bathwater],” Musk said. Twitter now will probably try to rehire some of the employees that were let go, he said.
Musk spoke about Linda Yaccarino, the ex-NBCUniversal exec he just hired as CEO of Twitter, joining the company, saying that “Linda will operate the company and I will build products.”
“Twitter is very much an advertising-dependent business, and Linda is obviously great at that,” Musk said. “My skills and interests are in technology.”
About the dire financial situation the company was facing, Musk said, “It was really a very challenging situation when the Twitter deal closed.” He said the company had negative $3 billion cash flow and just $1 billion in cash on hand. After Twitter’s board fought Musk’s takeover bid, it took him to court to hold him to the terms of his offer: “Basically they had a gun to my head saying, ‘No, you must acquire us!'”
Faber asked Musk about the tech mogul’s tweets that lend credence to conspiracy theories, including Musk’s Monday evening tweet in which he said, “Soros reminds me of Magneto,” likening billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros to Marvel’s Jewish supervillain from the X-Men series. Musk claimed that Soros does not have “good intentions”: “He wants to erode the very fabric of civilization. Soros hates humanity.” (Musk’s comments about Soros drew a rebuke from Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “Soros often is held up by the far-right, using antisemitic tropes, as the source of the world’s problems,” Greenblatt wrote on Twitter. “To see @ElonMusk, regardless of his intent, feed this segment — comparing him to a Jewish supervillain, claiming Soros ‘hates humanity’ — is not just distressing, it’s dangerous: it will embolden extremists who already contrive anti-Jewish conspiracies and have tried to attack Soros and Jewish communities as a result.”)
In the CNBC interview, Faber asked Musk why he would share such an opinion about Soros, given that Twitter advertisers or Tesla owners may object to it. “This is freedom of speech — I’m allowed to say what I want,” Musk replied. “People are calling you an antisemite” for the Soros comment, Faber said. Musk said he is not an antisemite, adding, “I’m like a pro-semite, if anything.”
Faber continued to press the point: “Do your tweets hurt [Tesla]?… Or are there advertisers on Twitter [for which] Linda Yaccarino will come [to you] and say, ‘You gotta stop. I can’t get these ads because of some of the things you tweet’?” Musk, after a pause, said, “You know, I’m reminded of a scene in ‘The Princess Bride,’ great movie, where [Mandy Patinkin’s character, Inigo Montoya] confronts the person who kills his father. And he says, ‘Offer me money. Offer me power. I don’t care.'”
Faber responded, “So you just don’t care.” Musk replied, “I’ll say what I want to say, and if the consequence of that is losing money, so be it.”
On Friday (May 12), the mega-billionaire announced that he hired Yaccarino, formerly head of ad sales at NBCUniversal, as CEO. Yaccarino, slated to start at Twitter by the end of June, on Saturday tweeted about the appointment, “Thank you @elonmusk! I’ve long been inspired by your vision to create a brighter future. I’m excited to help bring this vision to Twitter and transform this business together!”
At Twitter, Yaccarino will head up business operations, including ad sales, while Musk will remain executive chair and CTO, overseeing product, software and system operations. Musk, of course, will remain sole owner and decision-maker about Twitter. He’s also CEO of Tesla and SpaceX; Musk told Faber that he gets about six hours of sleep per night.
Twitter’s ad revenue, according to Musk, plummeted by as much as 50% after he closed the takeover in October 2022. Musk has valued Twitter at $20 billion, less than half the $44 billion price tag when he bought it.
Advertisers have been skittish about Musk’s mercurial decisions in running Twitter, as well as his sometimes bizarre tweets. That includes the decision by Musk — a self-described “free-speech absolutist” — to reinstate thousands of formerly banned Twitter accounts, including Donald Trump’s. And Musk, claiming he wanted to democratize the previously “corrupt” blue check-mark system, partially eliminated Twitter’s legacy verification program; the company now grants any paying Twitter Blue subscriber a verified check-mark.
In his CNBC appearance, Musk said, “We’ve lost some advertisers on Twitter because of Community Notes,” the platform’s crowdsourced fact-checking system, when an inaccuracy has been appended to an advertiser’s post using Community Notes and “they get mad and stop advertising.”
During the roughly one-hour interview, Musk discussed Tesla’s business — he said the company will start running advertising after historically shunning it and that its cars likely will achieve autonomous driving later in 2023 — and spacecraft manufacturer SpaceX.
Twitter recently has been in the headlines after Tucker Carlson, following his ouster at Fox News, claimed he will launch a version of his cable show on the platform. Musk shortly afterward tweeted that Twitter does not have “a deal of any kind whatsoever” with Carlson and that he is “subject to the same rules & rewards of all content creators.” Carlson was informed by one of Fox Corp.’s board members that his ouster was a condition of Fox News’ $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, Variety reported. Fox News is still paying Carlson’s $20 million annual salary; if the network tries to block Carlson from launching the show on Twitter, the host is prepared to sue Fox News or “watch the network implode attempting to challenge free speech,” a source told Variety.
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