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Jack Dorsey steps down as Twitter CEO; Parag Agrawal succeeds him

Nov 29, 2021
Originally published on November 29, 2021 4:54 pm

Jack Dorsey is stepping down as CEO of Twitter, the social media company he co-founded in 2006. He will be replaced by Twitter's chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, a 10-year veteran of the company.

Twitter stock rose on the news, which was first reported by CNBC.

"I've decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders," Dorsey said in a statement. "My trust in Parag as Twitter's CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I'm deeply grateful for his skill, heart, and soul. It's his time to lead."

Dorsey will remain on the company's board of directors until May of next year. He was Twitter's founding CEO but left the company once before after a falling out with a fellow co-founder. He returned to the top job in 2015.

Dorsey is also CEO of Square, the financial payments company he founded in 2009, and has been criticized by some investors for leading two public companies at once. The hedge fund Elliot Management, a major shareholder, sought to replace Dorsey last year. It argued that Twitter should have a CEO solely focused on running the company. The hedge fund backed off its demand, however, after striking a deal with Twitter management.

Beyond running the two companies, Dorsey is known to have many passions, including the cryptocurrency bitcoin and meditation. He told Wired Magazine in 2020 that he eats just one meal a day and tries to spend two hours a day meditating.

While Twitter is popular among celebrities, politicians and the media, it has been slow to innovate compared with top competitors such as Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok. The microblogging platform has stayed largely the same for years. Only recently has it introduced new features, such as Twitter Blue, a subscription service for frequent users, and Twitter Spaces for audio chats, as part of an ambitious effort to more than double annual revenue and attract new users.

"I believe that strategy to be bold and right," Agrawal wrote in a note to Twitter employees on Monday. "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 for each of you."

Dorsey shared an email to staff members announcing his departure on Twitter, describing it as "a tough one" but as his own decision.

"There aren't many companies that get to this level. And there aren't many founders that choose their company over their own ego," he wrote. "I know we'll prove this was the right move."

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's the end of an era at Twitter. Co-founder Jack Dorsey, known for his long beard, love of globetrotting and Bitcoin, has stepped down as CEO. NPR's tech correspondent Shannon Bond has more.

SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: Jack Dorsey has often seemed uncomfortable with the power that comes with leading a high-profile tech company, unlike Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Last year, when the New York Times Daily podcast asked if he believes he's one of the most powerful people on Earth, Dorsey said no.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACK DORSEY: Everything that has made Twitter powerful has come from the people using it. The people really pushed the direction of where the service goes and what it is and what it wants to be. And our job as a company - my job as an individual at the company is to be a checkpoint on that.

BOND: Now, Dorsey says, it's time for him to move on from Twitter. In an email to staff, he says a company being founder-led is, quote, "severely limiting and a single point of failure." Over the years, though, Dorsey has been criticized by investors and employees for not being focused enough on Twitter. In an unusual arrangement, he's also CEO of another public company, the payment processor Square. Last year, Dorsey survived an attempt by activist shareholders to force him out of the top job at Twitter. He acknowledged to investors in February the company has been slow to change, unlike its social media peers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DORSEY: Why don't we start with why folks don't believe in us? It comes down to three critiques. We're slow, we're not innovative, and we're not trusted.

BOND: In an effort to attract new users and double annual revenue, Twitter has rolled out new features, including subscriptions and audio chat. Meanwhile, Dorsey has also been attacked by conservatives, who claim Twitter censors them, as when it banned then-President Donald Trump after the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Now these questions of Twitter's power will be up to Parag Agarwal, the company's technology chief. He's taking over as CEO immediately, leaving Dorsey free to pursue his other interests.

Shannon Bond, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MYLO'S "ZENOPHILE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.