Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief technology officer, takes over the top job at the social network
Jack Dorsey steps down as chief executive of Twitter, the company he co-founded nearly 16 years ago, turning the top spot over to the company’s chief technology officer Parag Agrawal.
Jack Dorsey said, “I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders.”
Dorsey, also CEO of payments company Square, said further, “My trust in Parag as a Twitter CEO is deep.”
Dorsey is to remain on Twitter’s board through the end of his term in 2022 and, in his farewell email to Twitter employees, said he was leaving the company because it was time to move past a “founder-led” structure.
“This was my decision, and I own it,” the ex-CEO said in the email, which he also tweeted. “I’m really sad…yet really happy.”
The leadership shift comes between mounting scrutiny of Dorsey and Twitter from investors seeking increased profits and lawmakers concerned around the company’s moderation policies on political speech.
Last year, Elliott Management, an activist investment fund, pressured Dorsey to step down after the CEO had wanted to spend six months in Africa. The fund ultimately managed a deal with the company that allowed Dorsey to remain CEO. The deal carried an influx of $1 billion in new capital from a technology investor Silver Lake.
Twitter has also fought back accusations that it censors conservative politicians and commentators. In a rare step, earlier this year, they permanently banned Donald Trump because of concerns that Trump’s remarks could incite further violence after the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot.
Twitter has, under Dorsey’s leadership, aggressively experimented with new features; including newsletters, live audio, and tipping to bring in more users. He also oversaw the company’s first profit in 2018 and set a goal of doubling its annual revenue to at least $7.5 billion in 2023. Twitter, which has 211 million daily users who see ads; wants to reach at least 315 million daily active users in 2023.
Elliott Management managing partner Jesse Cohn and senior portfolio manager Marc Steinberg expressed support for the leadership changes.
“Twitter is now executing a multi-year plan to increase the company’s reach and value dramatically,” the pair said in a statement.
In a farewell email to Twitter employees, Dorsey sidestepped the issue of external pressure; saying, “I want you all to know that this was my decision, and I own it,” Dorsey wrote in the email, which he also tweeted. “I’m really sad…yet really happy.”
Dorsey expressed his confidence in Agrawal’s ability to run Twitter, saying, “he leads with heart and soul, and is someone I learn from daily.”
Agrawal joined Twitter in 2011 and became its CTO in 2017. As CTO, he led the social network’s technical strategy and advanced machine learning at Twitter, according to the company.
Agrawal followed up with his note to employees; he said he’s focused on the company’s opportunities ahead in the message.
“We recently updated our strategy to hit ambitious goals; and I believe that strategy to be bold and right,” he wrote. “But our critical challenge is how we work to execute against it and deliver results — that’s how we’ll make Twitter the best it can be for our customers, shareholders, and each of you.”
Agrawal, who has more than 109,600 followers on Twitter, doesn’t often share his thoughts on the social network. According to his timeline, he’s tweeted or retweeted only 24 times this year. Dorsey has 5.9 million followers on Twitter.
The Twitter stock spiked following the news on Monday morning and settled about 3% higher.
Dorsey became the CEO of the social network in 2015, following the resignation of Dick Costolo. Dorsey initially served as Twitter’s first CEO in 2007 but was fired 16 months later.
Twitter went through rough seas when Dorsey returned. In 2016, the company reduced 9% of its workforce, and there were reports that several companies Disney and Salesforce included, were interested in buying Twitter. The company also killed off its short-form video app Vine before TikTok’s rise.
Along with Mark Zuckerberg, Dorsey also became a frequent visitor to Congress, testifying at multiple hearings on social media. Shepherding the company through a period of intense scrutiny of social media platforms.
Dorsey, throughout his tenure at Twitter, has cultivated the image of a New Age tech guru. Eating just one meal a day and taking ice baths. According to The New York Times, Dorsey also goes on meditation retreats, occasionally getting him into trouble. In 2018, the executive faced vocal criticism for traveling to Myanmar on a meditation retreat amid international accusations; the country’s military had committed widespread human rights abuses against the country’s Muslim minority of the Rohingya people.
Dorsey’s ownership stake in Twitter has made him a billionaire, and the Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranks Dorsey as the world’s 174th richest person, with assets over $12 billion.
According to documents filed at the SEC, Agrawal will receive a salary of $1 million. Agrawal is also eligible for a bonus and stock grants.
Dorsey remains CEO of Square, a digital payments company he co-founded in 2009. In July, Square said it would launch a new business focused on bitcoin to help developers design decentralized financial products. Dorsey is an enthusiastic bitcoin supporter and helped form an endowment to make it the “internet’s currency.”