Axios Pro: Media Deals

April 15, 2022

Axios Pro Exclusive Content

🐦 Situational awareness: It's Friday, and Media Deals is going goblin mode, diving headlong into all the ramifications of Elon Musk's hostile takeover bid for Twitter!

  • Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal proved prescient last week when he said "there will be distractions ahead" after the board seat fiasco. But that bit of soothsaying won't make the days and weeks ahead any easier.

1. Agrawal's baptism by fire

Photo illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios. Photo: courtesy of Twitter

Barely four months into his tenure as Twitter's CEO, Parag Agrawal is already facing tough questions about his future leading the social media company amid Elon Musk's hostile takeover attempt.

Why it matters: Only Disney CEO Bob Chapek has had a worse crisis to deal with so early in his tenure as a chief executive.

  • Agrawal faces leading Twitter through a strategic transition, as the company is in the midst of shifting from an ad-based social network focused on text to a subscription-based platform centered on smaller communities and multimedia.
  • He also inherited former CEO Jack Dorsey’s aggressive internal goals, which include growing Twitter to 315 million monetizable daily active users by the end of 2023.

State of play: Agrawal fielded questions during an all-hands meeting yesterday afternoon and told Twitter staffers that the board was still evaluating Musk's offer (more on that meeting below).

What they're saying: While arguing that Twitter should accept Musk's offer, MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a research note yesterday that "the Board may want to give new CEO Parag Agrawal more time to prove himself and improve user growth and monetization to warrant a higher valuation."

Catch up quick: Agrawal was named CEO last November after Dorsey abruptly stepped down amid longstanding complaints he couldn't capably run two companies at the same time. (Dorsey is the CEO of Block, Inc., formerly known as Square.)

  • Agrawal, who has been with Twitter for more than a decade, was most recently CTO and led the company's major products efforts, including overseeing Twitter's decentralized social network standard called Bluesky.
  • Shortly after Musk disclosed his investment in Twitter last week, Agrawal initially tweeted that Musk was set to join the company's board — before Agrawal announced that would not be happening, adding the clairvoyant, and likely to be historic, forecast regarding distractions.
  • 💭 Tim's thought bubble: It is not known what caused that reversal — though Musk has a long history of backtracking on his promises — but it certainly implies that Musk and Agrawal do not see eye-to-eye.

What's next: The board is expected to rally behind Agrawal and fight off Musk's takeover attempt, possibly with a poison pill that would prevent him from upping his stake in the company.

  • Saudi royal Alwaleed bin Talal, who claims to be one of Twitter's largest shareholders, already said he would reject Musk's offer.

Of note: A late filing yesterday said Vanguard's first-quarter purchases made the asset management behemoth Twitter's largest shareholder.

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