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Twitter’s new CEO is an NBCUniversal executive with deep ad industry ties

By BARBARA ORTUTAY, MATT O’BRIEN and WYATTE GRANTHAM-PHILIPS | AP Technology Writers

Elon Musk confirmed that the new CEO for Twitter will be NBCUniversal’s Linda Yaccarino, an executive with deep ties to the advertising industry.

“I am excited to welcome Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter!” Musk wrote in a Friday tweet. He added that Yaccarino “will focus primarily on business operations” while Musk will stay closely connected to product design and new technology.

Before that announcement, NBCUniversal said Friday that Yaccarino would step down immediately as chairwoman for global advertising and partnerships.

Musk, who bought Twitter last fall and has been running it since, has long insisted that he would step down as top executive at the company, which is now called X Corp.

Few expect Musk to remove himself from the decision making process at Twitter, however.

“While he’s stepping back from the CEO title, Musk is far from likely to step back from calling the product shots,” said Mike Proulx, research director at Forrester Research.

Yaccarino, with deep roots in the advertising industry, could be a linchpin in Twitter’s future.

Luring advertisers is critical for Musk and Twitter after many fled in the early months after his takeover of the social media platform, fearing harm to their brands in the ensuing chaos. Musk said in late April that advertisers had returned, but provided no details.

Mark DiMassimo, founder and creative chief of ad agency DiGo, said Yaccarino successfully integrated and digitized ad sales at Comcast and NBC — and that her track record of cross-selling ads across different platforms could appeal to Musk as he tries to transform Twitter from a social media company to a bigger media platform.

Yaccarino worked at NBCUniversal for nearly 12 years — with her team generating more than $100 billion in ad sales since 2011, her company bio notes.

According to LinkedIn, Yaccarino previously served as NBC’s chair for advertising and client partnerships and as president of cable entertainment and digital advertising sales. Prior to her time with NBC, Yaccarino worked at global entertainment company Turner for almost two decades.

Last month, Yaccarino interviewed Musk on a Miami stage last month in front of hundreds of advertisers.

“If anyone can translate the Musk vision into advantages for marketers she’ll be able to do it,” DiMassimo said Friday, prior to Musk’s confirmation. “Even though there’s skepticism and all marketers live in the ‘show me’ state right now with regard to Twitter, if in fact she does go to Twitter this is a powerfully reassuring move.”

Proulx added that advertising is not the only challenge that Twitter’s new CEO will face – after all, Musk has “fundamentally altered” Twitter both as a product and a community, arguably “for the worse.”

Shares of Tesla rose about 2% Thursday after Musk made the announcement. Shareholders of the electric car company have been concerned about how much of his attention is being spent on Twitter.

Last November, Musk was questioned in court about how he splits his time among Tesla and his other companies, including SpaceX and Twitter. Musk had to testify in the trial in Delaware’s Court of Chancery over a shareholder’s challenge to his potentially $55 billion compensation plan as CEO of the electric car company.

Musk said he never intended to be CEO of Tesla, and that he didn’t want to be chief executive of any other companies either, preferring to see himself as an engineer. Musk also said at the time that he expected an organizational restructuring of Twitter to be completed in the next week or so. It’s been nearly six months since he said that.

Musk’s tenure at Twitter’s helm has been chaotic, and he’s made various promises and proclamations he’s backtracked or never followed up on. He began his first day firing the company’s top executives, followed by roughly 80% of its staff. He’s upended the platform’s verification system and has scaled back content moderation and safeguards against the spread of misinformation.

Bantering with Twitter followers late last year, Musk expressed pessimism about the prospects for a new CEO, saying that person “must like pain a lot” to run a company that “has been in the fast lane to bankruptcy.”

“No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor,” Musk tweeted at the time.

AP Business Writer Mae Anderson contributed to this report.

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