Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says Twitter is a jewel
Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO who now owns the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, also owns a chunk of Twitter.
Two years ago, he took a 4% stake in the popular but growth-challenged social network, On Tuesday, he provided insight into why he invested.
“Twitter is an amazing asset and I think it has a real opportunity to be a real business,” Ballmer said on stage at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
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Twitter has a huge user base—last month it said it had 328 million monthly active users. But for the past few years, the company has struggled to increase revenue. Last month it hired an ad tech executive to help. But because of the economics of online ads, it’s hard for any company other than huge players like Facebook fb or Google googl to make a profit from digital advertising.
Ballmer thinks that Twitter’s top management has decisions to make. Critics note that Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, a co-founder who stepped back into the top job two years ago, also remains CEO of Square, the online payment company. Many consider the dual roles to be a stretch, including Ballmer.
“Being a CEO is a tough job at one company. Being CEO of two companies, I can’t imagine,” Ballmer said. “I think Jack will end up picking one or the other.”
As for Twitter’s future? “The business will either get sorted through or become an asset someone else will buy” he said. While there has been a lot of acquisition talk about Twitter—last year Salesforce crm was reportedly interested, but nothing ultimately happened—Microsoft never tried to buy Twitter during Ballmer’s tenure, Ballmer said.
Some say the very presence of Twitter exacerbates political and social tensions at a tough time. But Ballmer said the positive outweighs the negative. “So many good things come out of that real-time information. It gives people direct access to anyone,” he said.
Still he’s not a big tweeter in his own right. As “@clippersteve” on Twitter, Ballmer has posted exactly 36 times since he created that account in August 2014. “I started tweeting frequently early in the basketball season, but how many times can you say ‘whooo, great game?’ I don’t want to be that guy.”