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‘No Fire-Breathing Dragon’: Elon Musk Fired Twitter CEO Parag Agarwal for ‘Lacking Key Leadership Quality’

‘No Fire-Breathing Dragon’: Elon Musk Fired Twitter CEO Parag Agarwal for ‘Lacking Key Leadership Quality’

  • This was revealed in a new biography by author and journalist Walter Isaacson which tells an “astonishingly intimate story” of” the most fascinating and controversial innovator of our era.”

Elon Musk found then Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal lacking a key “leadership quality,” and hence fired him, according to a new biography by author and journalist Walter Isaacson. Agrawal is a “really nice guy,” but one of his maxims is that managers should not aim to be liked,” Isaacson cited Musk as saying, according to The Wall Street Journal, which also published an excerpt from the book. “What Twitter needs is a fire-breathing dragon and Parag is not that,” Musk reportedly said after the meeting. Agrawal replaced Twitter founder Jack Dorsey as CEO less than six months ago, on Nov. 29, 2021. He was a long-serving engineer at the company and had previously risen to the rank of chief technology officer.

Isaacson’s book “Elon Musk,” which releases on Sept. 12, is an “astonishingly intimate story of the most fascinating and controversial innovator of our era — a rule-breaking visionary who helped to lead the world into the era of electric vehicles, private space exploration, and artificial intelligence,” according to a synopsis of the book on Amazon. 

Musk acquired Twitter in April 2022 or $44 billion. Apart from Agarwal, he fired policy head Vijaya Gadde and CFO Ned Segal, and acted as the CEO. However, in June 2023, he stepped down from the position and appointed Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO. Late July, he rebranded the platform as X, “ along with changing the structure of the organization with mass layoffs, upended corporate culture, altered its revenue model and has plans to change the function of the platform by transforming the virtual town square into a super app, Axios reported. 

After they were fired, Agarwal, Gadde and Segal were in line for payouts totaling almost $90 million, with Agrawal set for $38.7 million, largely due to shares vested since his departure, Business Insider reported at the time. This April, the trio of executives sued Musk, “seeking to be reimbursed more than $1 million for costs of litigation, investigations and congressional inquiries related to their former jobs,” the report said.

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The court filing outlined numerous expenses related to inquiries by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), the report added. Agrawal and Segal, then-CFO, provided testimony to the SEC last year and “have continued to engage with federal authorities,” Business Insider said, citing court documents. The SEC is investigating whether Musk complied with securities rules when he amassed Twitter shares.

Meanwhile, Gadde participated in a congressional hearing about big tech and free speech following Musk’s release late last year of the “Twitter Files” related to the site’s content moderation. She was also named as a defendant in a lawsuit by a man who claimed he was “doxed” at Twitter as a white supremacist, the filing said. She worked at Twitter since 2011, and was charged with overseeing Twitter’s trust and safety, legal and public policy functions. She made headlines for major decisions such as prohibiting political ads on the platform in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. During the Capitol riots in January 2021, she was reportedly the driving force behind the permanent suspension of Trump’s account, “a position that has earned her devoted fans within Twitter, as well as a large contingent of right-wing critics,” the New York Post reported at the time.

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