In latest round of Twitter cuts, some see hints of its next CEO

Is the job Steve Davis' to lose? PLUS: A smart new tool to fight child exploitation online

In latest round of Twitter cuts, some see hints of its next CEO
“blue bird with eyes bugging out of its head, digital art” / DALL-E

Last week, Twitter managers started receiving unexpected calls from Steve Davis. A longtime associate of Elon Musk’s — he began working at SpaceX in 2003 — Davis is currently CEO of The Boring Company. Since loaning himself out to Twitter last year, Davis has emerged as one of Musk’s top lieutenants there. 

Who on your team is exceptional? Davis asked managers when they got on the phone. Who would you bet your job on?

At first, managers assumed the questions were related to annual bonuses. In January, Musk’s associates told Twitter employees that high performers would receive new stock grants. That hadn’t happened yet. Perhaps now was finally the time?

On Saturday, though, the real reason for the calls was finally revealed. Twitter employees tried to log onto their work devices only to find that they’d been locked out, just like thousands of workers before them. Once again, there was no warning. If there was a twist here, it’s that the move came three months after Musk told employees that the company was done with layoffs

The cuts impacted more than 200 employees, we’re told, including product managers, engineers, and a number of people on data science. (The New York Times first reported the full scope of the terminations.) “Honestly, it felt like Elon got drunk and slept on the ‘del’ key on his phone,” a source said. “There is no pattern.”

Among the more notable layoffs in this round were founders of companies that Twitter had acquired under its previous owners. Haraldur Thorleifsson, Martijn de Kuijper, Leah Culver, and Esther Crawford had previously been on a “do not fire” list, because it was going to be so expensive to pay them out: as part of their compensation packages, the founders had accelerated stock vesting. All four were cut over the weekend.

Chris Reidy, the company’s acting head of sales, also was cut, a source said.

Davis has reportedly been charged with cutting costs. Some former employees have speculated that Twitter will attempt to get out of paying founders what they’re owed, just as Musk did with Twitter’s former top executives when he took over.

Davis’ star has risen steadily since he came to Twitter as part of Musk’s transition team last year. In December, the Information reported that Musk tasked Davis with cutting $500 million in costs; instead, he cut close to $1 billion — all while sleeping in the office with his partner and their newborn child. His success in bringing costs down by any means necessary has led to growing speculation internally that Musk will choose him to be Twitter’s next CEO.