Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Twitter Inc., is stepping down, ceding the position to the company’s chief technology officer Parag Agrawal.
The move is effective immediately, though Dorsey will stay on the board of the social media company until his term expires in 2022, Twitter said in a statement Monday.
“I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders,” Dorsey said in the 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, 45, is also the head of payments company Square Inc. and has been taking an increasing interest in cryptocurrencies recently. Dorsey stepped down as CEO of Twitter in 2008, but returned to the company in 2015.
In 2020, Dorsey came under pressure from activist investor Elliott Management Corp. over how he was spending his time. A year earlier, he had also said he planned to spend up to six months of the year working in Africa to better understand the continent’s internet users, a move that was ultimately scrapped due to Covid 19. The hedge fund reached an agreement with Twitter and private equity group Silver Lake to appoint three new directors to Twitter’s board and create a committee to review its leadership and governance. Agrawal, who became chief technology officer in 2017, will become a member of the board.
The deal came at a cost, though: Twitter had to grow its monetized daily users by 20% or more and boost revenue growth. Dorsey could lose his position if those goals weren’t met, Bloomberg reported.
CNBC reported the news earlier Monday, without providing any other details. Twitter couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Twitter shares jumped 3.4% at 10:50 a.m. in New York. In an unusually bubbly tech equity market, Twitter has lagged behind its peers, with its shares slumping almost 10% this year, while Meta Platforms Inc., formerly Facebook, has risen 23%.
“The headline takeaway here is Twitter’s execution,” said Mandeep Singh, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “When you compare Twitter to all the other social media platforms, the level of engagement they had, they never were able to monetize it as well as some” other rivals. “Investors recognize having one man be the CEO of two companies wasn’t very effective in terms of execution.”
Dorsey has also overseen the company when it faced widespread pressure from politicians and activists to take a more proactive role in moderating hate speech, misinformation and other forms of objectionable content from political leaders. Dorsey took a stronger line than his social-media peers during Donald Trump’s presidency, banning the former president from Twitter and telling Congress that he takes some responsibility for online organizing that led to the Jan. 6 riot at Capitol Hill. The company also recently introduced a program to crowd source fact-checking misinformation.
Dorsey has been at the helm of Twitter as it experimented with new innovations in social media including most recently live audio products and subscription services. In June, the company unveiled Twitter Blue, a long-awaited subscription service that will allow users to rescind tweets and organize their posts. It’s also launched Twitter Spaces, a live audio chat service that were meant to compete with up-and coming upstart Clubhouse.
In recent months, Twitter stepped up its pace of acquisitions after years of languid deal-making, as the company made a renewed effort to increase the addition of new features. In May the company purchased the news reader service Scroll.
But the company also faced market pressures from younger rivals including TikTok and Snapchat which has large audiences among the youngest age cohorts with short-form video products.
Twitter said earlier this year it wants to double its annual revenue to $7.5 billion by 2023, and expects to increase its user base by an average of almost 20% in each of the next three years, according to a regulatory filing.
In the third quarter, Twitter said it had 211 million daily users, 5 million more than the previous period and a 13% increase from a year earlier. The social media service attributed the growth to “ongoing product improvements and global conversations around current events.”
Dorsey has a net worth of $12.3 billion, with Square accounting for more than $10 billion of that amount. He’s publicly pledged much of his stake in Square to charitable causes, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
—With assistance from Michael Tobin.