In a stunning move on the eve of the broadcast upfronts, NBCUniversal sales chief Linda Yaccarino is reportedly set to become Twitter’s new CEO.
The Wall Street Journal‘s report on the hiring Thursday evening raised eyebrows and hackles over its timing. On Monday morning, Yaccarino is slated to prowl the stage of Radio City Music Hall, making her pitch to 4,000-plus ad buyers. Instead, one of the biggest media companies is left to grapple with its third major crisis of the past two weeks, following the abrupt exit of CEO Jeff Shell and the onset of the writers strike.
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Sources immediately reached by Deadline were surprised, to say the least, though a big sign appeared last month when Yaccarino and Musk appeared in a keynote conversation at a conference in Miami. NBCU and Twitter then inked a major ad pact for the 2024 Olympics, an announcement accompanied by bouquet tossing by NBCU, an odd contrast with the dozens of advertisers and media agency execs who had expressed skepticism about Twitter under Musk.
When contacted by Deadline about the potential news tonight, Yaccarino’s top NBCU communications deputy responded only that “Linda is in back to back rehearsals for the Upfront.”
The unpredictable Tesla billionaire acquired Twitter for $44 billion last fall, and advertising has immediately emerged as one of its chief liabilities in a time when Musk has fired most workers and opened the throttle on content many brands find objectionable. While Musk has launched an effort to bring in money via subscriptions, none has gained initial traction.
At the time of the takeover, Twitter was making more than 90% of its money from ads.
The news comes after earlier in the day Musk tweeted that he was “Excited to announce that I’ve hired a new CEO for X/Twitter,” saying it would be a woman.
“She will be starting in ~6 weeks!” Musk wrote, adding, “My role will transition to being exec chair & CTO, overseeing product, software & sysops.”
Musk said in December that he would step down as CEO as soon as he found someone “foolish enough to take the job.” That came after Musk, who acquired the social media giant for $44 billion, promised to abide by the result of a Twitter poll in which he asked users if he should step down. More than 57% voted “yes.”
Yaccarino, who has been at NBCU since 2011, currently holds the title of Chairman of Global Advertising and Partnerships at the Comcast division. She oversees all global, national and local ad sales, partnerships, marketing, ad tech, data, measurement and strategic initiatives, according to her bio, which says she and her team have generated more than $100 billion in ad sales.
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