By Chavi Mehta, Sheila Dang and Dawn Chmielewski
(Reuters) – Elon Musk said on Thursday he has found a new chief executive for Twitter, but did not name the person, while the Wall Street Journal reported that Comcast NBCUniversal executive Linda Yaccarino was in talks for the job.
Musk said in a tweet: “Excited to announce that I’ve hired a new CEO for X/Twitter. She will be starting in ~6 weeks!”
Musk said he will transition to the role of chief technology officer of the social media platform within the next few weeks.
Musk, who took over as CEO of Twitter when he completed his $44 billion purchase of the company in October, said in December that he would step aside as CEO once he found “someone foolish enough to take the job.” He said that he would then run Twitter’s software and servers teams.
The WSJ cited people familiar with the situation in saying that Yaccarino was in talks for the top post.
Reuters reported after Musk’s tweet that Yaccarino could be his choice to lead Twitter, according to a Silicon Valley executive and a former Hollywood executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Yaccarino, the top advertising sales executive at NBCUniversal, interviewed Musk at an advertising conference in Miami last month.
At the conference, Yaccarino encouraged the audience to welcome Musk with applause and lauded his work ethic.
“Many of you in this room know me, and you know I pride myself on my work ethic,” she said, adding, “Buddy, I met my match.”
Yaccarino joined NBCU in 2011, after 15 years at Turner Entertainment and has been credited with dragging the network’s ad sales operation into the digital future.
As broadcast television audiences migrated to streaming, she took to the stage at Radio City Music Hall last year to tell advertisers that their brand messages were not an afterthought.
Yaccarino did not respond to calls seeking comment on Thursday.
When asked for comment, an NBCUniversal spokesperson said, “Linda is in back-to-back rehearsals for the Upfront,” referring to a presentation NBCUniversal will host for advertisers in New York on Monday.
Yaccarino’s exit would be another big blow to the company after Comcast said last month that NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell was leaving after acknowledging an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the company, following a complaint that prompted an investigation.
“ANCHOR IS LOOSENED”
Musk has previously not named any prospective candidates.
Speculation was rife on Thursday among tech and media insiders and on Blind, an anonymous messaging app for tech employees.
Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, former YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and a top executive at Musk’s brain-chip startup Neuralink, Shivon Zilis, were among names that were being discussed.
Musk, who has come under fire from investors in his Tesla electric car company as being distracted by his attention to Twitter, said he will transition to the role of Twitter’s executive chair, along with the role of CTO, overseeing product, software and system operations.
Musk’s post about a new Twitter CEO came about 15 minutes before the close of Wall Street on Thursday, and Tesla shares closed 2% higher. The shares rose a further 1.6% in after-hours trade.
“The boat anchor called Twitter is loosened from Musk’s ankle. Now he can get back to spending more time creating value at Tesla,” said Craig Irwin, analyst at Roth MKM.
Musk has long said he intended to find a new leader for Twitter.
In a Twitter poll started by Musk in December, 57.5% users voted for him to step down as CEO of the social media platform.
The billionaire’s first two weeks as Twitter’s owner in October were marked by rapid change. He quickly fired Twitter’s previous CEO, Parag Agrawal, and other senior leaders, and then laid off half its staff in November.
Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” has said he took over Twitter to prevent the platform from becoming an echo chamber for hate and division.
He also said he would “defeat” spam bots on the platform, a key area of his tussle with Twitter’s board over his back and forth on the buyout of the company.
He said last month that Twitter was “roughly breaking even.”
(Reporting by Chavi Mehta, Ananya Mariam Rajesh and Juby Babu in Bengaluru, Sheila Dang in New York, Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles, Greg Bensinger and Sayantani Ghosh in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)