Twitter CEO faces employee anger over Musk attacks at company-wide meeting

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Barron’s deputy editor Alex Eule weighs in on Elon Musk buying Twitter.

Twitter Chief Executive Parag Agrawal sought to quell employee anger on Friday during a company-wide meeting where employees demanded answers to how managers planned to handle an anticipated mass exodus prompted by Elon Musk.

The meeting comes after Musk, the Tesla chief executive who sealed a $44 billion deal to buy the social media company, repeatedly criticized Twitter’s content moderation practices and a top executive responsible for setting speech and safety policies.

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At the internal town hall meeting, which was heard by Reuters, executives said the company would monitor staff attrition daily, but it was too soon to tell how the buyout deal with Musk would affect staff retention.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images  |  twitter / Getty Images)

Musk has pitched lenders on slashing board and executive salaries but exact cost cuts remain unclear, according to sources familiar with the matter. One source said Musk would not make decisions on job cuts until he assumes ownership of Twitter.

“I’m tired of hearing about shareholder value and fiduciary duty. What are your honest thoughts about the very high likelihood that many employees will not have jobs after the deal closes?” one Twitter employee asked Agrawal, in a question read aloud during the meeting.

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Agrawal answered that Twitter has always cared about its employees and would continue to do so.

“I believe the future Twitter organization will continue to care about its impact on the world and its customers,” he said.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk offered $44 billion for Twitter. ( Getty Images / Getty Images)

Executives said during the meeting that the employee attrition rate has not changed compared to the levels before the news of Musk’s interest in buying the company.

In recent days, Musk has tweeted criticism of Twitter’s top lawyer, Vijaya Gadde, who is a Twitter veteran and widely-respected across Silicon Valley. Musk’s attack triggered a barrage of online harassment targeting her.

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Employees also told executives they feared Musk’s erratic behavior could destabilize Twitter’s business, and hurt it financially as the company prepares to address the advertising world in a presentation next week in New York City.

A sign is pictured outside the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn / AP Newsroom)

“Do we have a strategy in the near-term on how to handle advertisers pulling investment,” one employee asked.

Sarah Personette, Twitter’s chief customer officer, said the company was working to communicate frequently with advertisers and reassure them “the way that we service our customers is not changing.”

After the meeting, a Twitter employee told Reuters there was little trust in what executives had to say.

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“The PR speak is not landing. They told us don’t leak and do a job you are proud of, but there is no clear incentive for employees to do this,” the employee told Reuters, noting that compensation for non-executive staffers is now capped because of the deal.

Agrawal is estimated to receive $42 million if he were terminated within 12 months of a change in control at the social media company, according to research firm Equilar.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
TWTRTWITTER INC.49.01-0.14-0.28%
TSLATESLA INC.870.76-6.75-0.77%

During the meeting, Agrawal urged staff to expect change in the future under new leadership, and acknowledged that the company could have performed better over the years.

“Yes, we could have done things differently and better. I could have done things differently. I think about that a lot,” he said.

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Twitter declined further comment.

(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas and Katie Paul in Palo Alto, California; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Kenneth Li and Daniel Wallis)

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