Musk’s rash firings show ‘he’s not really in control of what’s important’ and the threat of bankruptcy is credible, ex-Twitter chairman says

Twitter owner Elon Musk is seen with a Twitter logo
Musk, the world’s richest person, has sought to completely change the culture at Twitter since taking control.
STR/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Elon Musk will be creating room for competitors of Twitter Inc. to emerge if he breaks the “ethos” of the influential social media company, former Chairman Patrick Pichette said.  

Pichette, who led the board in 2020 and 2021 and remained a director until the sale to Musk closed in October, told French-language broadcaster Radio-Canada that it’s “too early to tell” if the Tesla Inc. billionaire will be good for Twitter. But if Twitter becomes a less attractive place for users, others will spring up to compete, Pichette said. 

“If Elon Musk breaks the ethos of Twitter, with the beauty of the internet, you can have eight other platforms showing up tomorrow morning,” the Quebec-born Pichette said in an interview on the business program Zone Economie. 

Musk, the world’s richest person, has sought to completely change the culture at Twitter since taking control — laying off about 50% of employees, ending the company’s remote-work policy and telling the remaining staff they should accept working long hours at “high intensity” or take a severance package. 

The company’s new leader has even warned of the possibility of bankruptcy if Twitter, which had revenue of $5.2 billion in the 12 months ended June, can’t generate more cash. 

Pichette, who was chief financial officer of Google from 2008 to 2015, said that’s a credible threat: “It’s a resilient business but it doesn’t mean it won’t go bankrupt.”

Musk has sparred openly with critics and stumbled into controversy with a plan that allowed any user to buy a “blue checkmark” — previously reserved for the verified accounts of notable figures or organizations — for an $8-a-month subscription fee. The program spawned a flood of seemingly verified spoof accounts from people impersonating corporations, politicians, athletes and Musk himself. 

Musk fired staff so quickly that the company had to call some back because they were needed. “It shows he’s not in control of what’s really important at Twitter yet,” Pichette told Radio-Canada.  

Pichette said the board achieved what it set out to do — forcing Musk to fulfill his obligations under the $44 billion takeover agreement and not backing down in a legal fight when he tried to escape the deal.

“Until Elon Musk bought it and we closed the deal, everything went as the board hoped,” he said. “We had very clear objectives and we accomplished them.”

Pichette owned 30,860 Twitter shares when Musk bought the company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, worth nearly $1.7 million at the takeover price. All the money will go toward the Kenauk project, Pichette said, which aims to preserve 65,000 acres of forest land in Outaouais, a region in the southwest part of Quebec. 

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