The ever unpredictable Elon Musk is taking an unusually measured approach in selecting a possible new CEO for his latest acquisition, the social media platform Twitter: He is said to be considering potential candidates from the so-called “PayPal Mafia,” including tech investor Joe Lonsdale, Fox Business has learned.
Londsdale, who runs the investment firm 8VC, and co-founded the software company Palantir, has been a vocal supporter of Musk’s approach to changing Twitter to include more diverse voices outside the progressive Silicon Valley ecosystem and to end what some critics say is censorship by previous management. He and Musk worked together at PayPal, the digital payment platform Musk helped create before he became head of Telsa, the world’s top electric car manufacturer.
“If I were to guess, it would be Joe Lonsdale who he wants or someone from the “PayPal Mafia,” said one Wall Street CEO who regularly speaks with Musk. “Most business leaders would not want to work for Elon. His friends from PayPal know him well and possibly understand him.”
Musk, among the top three richest people in the world, acquired Twitter in October after a months-long battle with management where he tried to negate his initial $44 billion offer during a correction in the markets and pay a lower price, Fox Business has reported . He was forced to go through with the deal at its initial terms amid a heated battle with former Twitter management in Delaware’s Chancery Court.
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Since then, Musk’s stewardship of Twitter, the ubiquitous but often money-losing social media platform, has been anything but smooth. Critics say it has been indicative of his quirky, seat-of-the-pants management style at Tesla, which despite its current success has been a constant source of controversy and scrutiny from regulators.
That scrutiny includes accounting irregularities, claims made about its self-driving cars while Musk it has chartered an uneven path to profitability. In 2018, Tesla was forced to settle with the Securities and Exchange Commission after Musk tweeted he had a deal to take the company – then under significant financial pressure — private at a premium to its stock price when no such deal apparently existed.
At Twitter, Musk has equally disrupted the status quo. He immediately slashed costs and fired staff he had to hire back. His belief that the company censored speech, including voices that deviated from left-wing talking points and demanded changes to Twitter’s content moderation policy, angered many of the platform’s left-wing staffers and programmers.
Musk recently added a new wrinkle to the drama: He began searching for a new a new Twitter CEO. The move came after Musk took a poll of users about his leadership over the weekend. The result was a vote of no-confidence vote with 57% of the responders saying they favored a new person to lead the platform.
That prompted what has been described as a soft CEO search by Musk without the use of an executive search company, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Lonsdale or one of Musk’s former teammates at PayPal are now considered top choices for the job because many other candidates would be hesitant to work for maybe the least conventional CEO in corporate America, according to people who know Musk.
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The decision to appoint a new CEO is not likely to be imminent, and it may not happen at all, according to bankers familiar with Musk’s thinking. “I don’t think who he’s going to booster is a question for right now,” said one banker who deals with Musk. “It’s going to be Elon for now and maybe longer. He likes the attention of running Twitter.”
Musk’s attorney, Mike Ringler declined to comment. Lonsdale didn’t respond to an email or call for comment.
According to Bloomberg, other possible Twitter CEO candidates include David Sacks, a former PayPal executive, Jason Calcanis, an internet entrepreneur, and Sriram Krishnan of the tech investment firm Andreessen Horowitz.
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Lonsdale, for his part, was an early supporter of Musk’s initial bid to takeover Twitter even while it was being rebuffed by management. Court documents show he emailed Musk at the time supporting Musk’s intention to reign in the progressive bent of Twitter’s content moderation and described how he was meeting with top Republicans to plug Musks then-hostile takeover.
And Lonsdale has been a supporter of Musk’s latest effort to rattle Twitter and the tech world in general—the so-called release of the Twitter files. Musk has filtered through various independent journalists of internal discussions via emails of how prior management worked with the FBI to suppress what it deemed disinformation.
This effort included throttling tweets that would have damaged Joe Biden when he was a presidential candidate during the 2020 election against former president Donald Trump.
The Twitter files show that prior Twitter management worked with FBI officials to hold back from the platform the New York Post’s 2020 reporting of the laptop of Hunter Biden, president Biden’s troubled son. The contents of the laptop showed Hunter Biden cavorting with prostitutes, using drugs and his father’s influence to do business across the globe.
There was some evidence in the reporting by The Post that the elder Biden may have received payments from his son from his business dealings. Then-candidate and now-president Biden has denied knowing about his son’s business activities or receiving money.
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But Twitter refused to allow the Post story to be circulated on its platform during the heat of the 2020 presidential election, possibly helping Biden to a narrow victory over Trump.
Speaking on Fox Business’s “Mornings with Maria,” Lonsdale said the Twitter files show that social media, along with forces inside the government, are “turning down certain people. They’re turning up other people. Like this is hugely affecting elections.”