Twitter taps NBC ad chief to take over as CEO from Elon Musk

Twitter taps NBC ad chief to take over as CEO from Elon Musk

Musk will shift into role of chief technologist

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Linda Yaccarino is leaving her role as head of global advertising at NBCUniversal to take the helm at Twitter, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Yaccarino and NBCUniversal announced her departure on Friday morning, effective immediately. Without naming Yaccarino, Elon Musk said in a tweet on Thursday that he had chosen a new CEO who would begin in six weeks and that he is shifting into the role of chief technologist at the social media company.

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Yaccarino joined NBCUniversal in 2011 after nearly two decades at Turner Broadcasting. At NBCUniversal, she helped launch the ad-supported streaming service Peacock and oversaw live events like the Super Bowl and Olympic Games. Yaccarino also led partnerships with a variety of tech companies including Snapchat, YouTube, and, of course, Twitter.

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Musk’s tweet came at an awkward time for the executive. NBCUniversal is scheduled to give its annual presentation to advertisers at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Monday. The upfront events, which span the week, are when major media companies begin selling advertising for the fall TV season. Yaccarino isn’t expected to appear at NBC’s upfront presentation next week a person familiar with the discussions said.

This year’s presentations were already challenged by a screenwriters strike that could result in major delays in TV production and schedules. NBCUniversal’s event is expected to focus heavily on online advertising, as the company further promotes its lineup of movies and TV shows on Peacock. NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast Corp., was rocked just last month by the firing of its chief executive officer, Jeff Shell, over a sexual harassment complaint levelled by an employee.

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Mark Marshall will become interim chairman of NBCUniversal’s global advertising and partnerships group, the company said.

“We are grateful for Linda Yaccarino’s leadership of NBCUniversal’s Advertising Sales business, and for the innovative team and platform she has built,” said Comcast president Mike Cavanagh. “Linda has made countless contributions to the company during her twelve year tenure, and we wish her the best.”

Musk bought Twitter for US$44 billion last October and indicated that he’d only be in charge for a limited time to complete the organizational overhaul he thought the company needed to prosper. Musk complained of having “too much work” and sleeping at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters while implementing radical changes.

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In December, Musk asked his Twitter followers if he should step down as CEO, and 57.5 per cent said yes. The billionaire will remain executive chairman after the transition.

Musk, who’s also CEO of Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has drawn criticism for his abrupt policy changes at Twitter and neglect of his other businesses. He’s also changed the corporate name of Twitter’s parent to X Holdings, an entity that could eventually be the parent for all his businesses — an idea he has publicly mused about. Musk has also said he wants to build Twitter beyond social media and into an “everything app,” including financial services.

Yaccarino will have to deal with the fallout from Musk’s ownership, including an advertiser exodus. Despite a slight uptick in daily users since early 2022, Twitter’s revenue has fallen by 50 per cent since October as a result of a “massive decline” in advertising, Musk said in March.

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The company’s Twitter Blue subscription service plan has also been flailing, drawing less than one per cent of the user base. Musk has cut thousands of jobs, scaled back the company’s content moderation and allowed accounts previously banned for breaking rules to return.

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Musk already has a friendly relationship with Yaccarino, who interviewed him last month at a major advertising conference in Miami, and called him “friend” and “buddy” on stage. Recently, Twitter and NBCU expanded their Olympic Games partnership.

Yaccarino repeatedly emphasized in her interview with Musk that what advertisers are looking for from Twitter is protection. At one point, she candidly asked Musk whether he felt he had “de-risked” the platform enough to assure advertisers that their campaigns aren’t going to land in “awful hateful places.”

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She wasn’t afraid to drag Musk’s own tweets into that conversation either. In her position at NBC, which has a large distribution partnership with Twitter, Yaccarino said, “Are there days where I see some of your tweets and wish I could say, “Stop helping the situation?” She nodded her head.

“I can say that she would be my first choice, and my only choice, to save the platform from the hands of its owner,” said Lou Paskalis, who advises marketers as chief strategy officer at Ad Fontes Media, on Twitter. “I still cannot understand why she’d subject herself to @elonmusk, however!”

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Puck News’ Dylan Byers also reported via a tweet that Musk planned to name Yaccarino as Twitter’s CEO, citing two people familiar with the matter.

—With additional reporting from Brandon Sapienza.


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