Twitter chief executive faces employee ire over Musk takeover deal

Workers demanded answers to how managers planned to handle an anticipated mass exodus prompted by the buyout deal

Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal is estimated to receive $42 million if he were terminated within 12 months of a change in control at the social media company. Photo: AP
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Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal sought to quell employee anger on Friday during a company-wide meeting where employees demanded answers to how managers planned to handle an anticipated mass exodus prompted by Elon Musk.

The meeting comes after Mr Musk, the Tesla chief executive who sealed a $44 billion deal to buy the social media company, repeatedly criticised Twitter's content moderation practices and a top executive responsible for setting speech and safety policies.

At the internal town hall meeting, executives said the company would monitor staff attrition daily, but it was too soon to tell how the buyout deal with Mr Musk would affect staff retention.

Mr Musk has pitched lenders on slashing board and executive salaries but exact cost cuts remain unclear, according to sources. One source said Mr Musk would not make decisions on job cuts until he assumes ownership of Twitter.

"I'm tired of hearing about shareholder value and fiduciary duty. What are your honest thoughts about the very high likelihood that many employees will not have jobs after the deal closes?" one Twitter employee asked Mr Agrawal, in a question read aloud during the meeting.

Mr Agrawal answered that Twitter has always cared about its employees and would continue to do so.

"I believe the future Twitter organisation will continue to care about its impact on the world and its customers," he said.

Executives said during the meeting the employee attrition rate has not changed compared with the levels before the news of Mr Musk's interest in buying the company.

In recent days, Mr Musk has tweeted criticism of Twitter's top lawyer, Vijaya Gadde, who is a Twitter veteran and widely-respected across Silicon Valley. Mr Musk's attack triggered a barrage of online harassment targeting her.

Employees also told executives they feared Mr Musk's erratic behavior could destabilise Twitter's business, and hurt it financially as the company prepares to address the advertising world in a presentation next week in New York City.

"Do we have a strategy in the near-term on how to handle advertisers pulling investment," one employee asked.

Sarah Personette, Twitter's chief customer officer, said the company was working to communicate frequently with advertisers and reassure them "the way that we service our customers is not changing".

After the meeting, a Twitter employee told Reuters there was little trust in what executives had to say.

"The PR speak is not landing. They told us don't leak and do a job you are proud of, but there is no clear incentive for employees to do this," the employee told Reuters, noting that compensation for non-executive staffers is now capped because of the deal.

Mr Agrawal is estimated to receive $42 million if he were terminated within 12 months of a change in control at the social media company, according to research company Equilar.

During the meeting, Mr Agrawal urged staff to expect change in the future under new leadership, and acknowledged the company could have performed better over the years.

"Yes, we could have done things differently and better. I could have done things differently. I think about that a lot," he said.

Twitter declined further comment.

Updated: April 30, 2022, 4:40 AM
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