October 6, 2022
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Twitter chairman keeps calm in chaos of Musk’s bid to scrap deal

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NEW DELHI: At a expertise convention in June, Bret Taylor, the mild-mannered co-CEO of tech behemoth Salesforce Inc., was shedding his persistence. Taylor had joined the convention to speak about the way forward for work, however the moderator stored asking about Twitter.
Taylor declined to debate his facet gig as chairman of Twitter Inc. With a $44 billion acquisition on the road, he mentioned it might be inappropriate to remark. But the moderator stored urgent: What are the probabilities that Elon Musk goes by way of along with his settlement to purchase the beleaguered social community? Has the deal stalled? Is it potential you’ll find yourself within the courts? With every query, Taylor’s grimace grew to become extra pronounced.
“Once more—we intend to shut the transaction and implement the merger settlement,” he mentioned, earlier than efficiently altering the subject.
In less complicated occasions, the VivaTech convention in Paris may have been a triumphant second for Taylor, simply seven months into his tenure atop Salesforce, alongside billionaire Marc Benioff. The 42-year-old’s resume consists of co-creating Google Maps, inventing the “Like” button, founding after which promoting two firms, and driving Salesforce’s largest acquisitions.
However his position at Twitter has positioned him on the middle of probably the most seen dispute in enterprise, reverse would-be acquirer Musk, 51, the world’s richest man and CEO of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX. Taylor has been making an attempt to say as little as potential as Musk heckles Twitter publicly and privately. However his actions converse volumes: Underneath Taylor’s management, the corporate sued Musk to implement the contract after he modified his thoughts about shopping for the social community.
There’s little cause for optimism that the deal, reached in late April, will go effectively for Twitter, nevertheless it shakes out. If the corporate wins, it finally ends up owned by a person who doesn’t need it, and whom Twitter’s attorneys have portrayed in courtroom as a manipulative liar. If Twitter reaches a settlement to finish the dispute, Taylor and different board members might be sued by shareholders for breaching their duties by foregoing the $54.20-per-share acquisition worth Musk dedicated to, which was accepted by traders at a gathering earlier this week.
In opposition to this chaotic backdrop, Taylor has been Twitter’s deal quarterback, passing data between bankers, advisors and administrators whereas making an attempt to undertaking a calmly skilled demeanor. It’s as much as company boards to approve acquisitions, which explains why it’s been Twitter’s board chair taking up many key obligations alongside chief govt officer Parag Agrawal.
These duties embody coping with Musk, who has despatched updates and threats on to Taylor, typically over textual content, in accordance with authorized filings. In late March, Musk informed Taylor that he may construct a competing service if he didn’t get what he wished at Twitter. Days earlier than the acquisition was finalized in April, Musk promised Taylor he would provoke a hostile takeover—also called a young supply—if his $44 billion supply wasn’t accepted, in accordance with filings in Twitter’s lawsuit in opposition to Musk. (Every week earlier he had mockingly tweeted “Love me Tender,” a wink at his potential takeover technique.)
It’s Taylor who fielded Musk’s advances, and now it’s Taylor who’s serving as the general public face of the corporate because it forces him to a courtroom. Each executives declined to remark for this story.
Taylor is understood—in life and enterprise—for being low-key, well mannered and by-the-book, in accordance with conversations with 17 associates and buddies. That places him in stark distinction to the person sitting on the opposite facet of the negotiating desk. Whereas Taylor has been saying “no remark,” Musk has given the media, and Twitter’s attorneys, loads of materials to work with. He’s posted memes hinting at his intentions, taunted Twitter’s executives and polled the general public on Twitter’s future.
There was the time Musk tweeted a poop emoji at Agrawal, or challenged him to a public debate about bots. Musk’s posts have been cited in Twitter’s lawsuit in opposition to the tech mogul, and can undoubtedly seem within the Delaware Courtroom of Chancery come October, when the 2 sides are set for a trial.
Taylor, in the meantime, has despatched solely seven Tweets in regards to the Musk entanglement, every time a sober replace clearly vetted by attorneys, in a feed in any other case crammed with smiling group pictures, sports activities commentary and Salesforce product updates. He’s publicly refuted Musk’s claims about bots and spam and repeated the social community’s mantra about imposing the deal in courtroom.
Buddies and colleagues say Taylor is fitted to the position of calm middleman—he’s environment friendly, has technical data and offers expertise, and works effectively with sturdy personalities. He’s offered a number of firms, and labored close to the highest of different tech giants over the previous 20 years, quietly changing into invaluable to A-list CEOs like Benioff and Meta Platforms Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg. A part of why he capabilities so effectively in these conditions is that Taylor is simply wonderful working behind the scenes, with out searching for credit score or the limelight, mentioned one particular person at Twitter who works with Taylor. He has developed wholesome coping mechanisms, like a brand new behavior this 12 months of doing 100 push-ups a day.
Taylor trotted a well-known path on his approach to Twitter’s board. After graduating from Stanford in the course of the dot-com bust of the early 2000s, he landed at Google, the place he co-founded Maps and made a bunch of buddies now composed of senior tech executives and unicorn founders who nonetheless play poker collectively.
After Google’s IPO, Taylor left to create FriendFeed, a social-media startup, which constructed the now-ubiquitous “Like” button. Funding finally dried up, and Taylor negotiated a sale to Fb over a weekend in 2009, whereas Twitter additionally angled to purchase the startup. The hearth sale harm his satisfaction as a founder however gave him two new mentors—Zuckerberg, whom he reported to as CTO, and one other ex-Googler, Sheryl Sandberg, who constructed Fb into an promoting behemoth. Taylor has mentioned Fb is the place he discovered to be a supervisor, and he obtained a front-row seat to a number of lightning-fast acquisitions, together with the $1 billion Instagram takeover in 2012.
When Fb needed to reply for early privateness controversies, the corporate despatched the affable Taylor to Washington to testify earlier than US Senators. Years later, he has mentioned he nonetheless feels loyalty to Fb and its management.
Taylor’s composure stems from his steady upbringing, buddies say. His mom was a Chevron Corp. govt, finally retiring to run wine nation excursions, and his father was a mechanical engineer who usually had computer systems arrange round the home. Each went to Stanford. Yearbook pictures from highschool within the Nineties present Taylor was a long-distance runner, wore a grunge band T-shirt and had lengthy hair. Right now, he lives along with his spouse and three children a number of miles from his personal mother and father.
After Fb went public, Taylor once more ditched his flashy big-company gig. This time he pivoted to enterprise software program and co-founded Quip, an organization that permit individuals collaborate on paperwork within the cloud, at a time when the norm was saving recordsdata on a private pc.
He additionally accepted his first board seat, at Axon Enterprise Inc., maker of Taser stun weapons and police body-cameras. That position gave Taylor his first classes in boardroom diplomacy. When Axon’s administrators had disagreements, Taylor was in a position to re-frame the difficulty in easy language and transfer issues ahead, mentioned Axon chief govt officer Rick Smith. “Bret could be the man that will say, ‘OK, let’s pause for a second, take the emotion out of this, and let’s simply put the elements on the board.’” Hadi Partovi, an early investor in blue-chip corporations like Uber Applied sciences Inc. and Airbnb Inc. who was additionally on the Axon board and recruited Taylor, remembers that Taylor was preternaturally smart. “I believe he was in all probability the youngest member of the board but additionally the one that folk most wished to listen to from,” he mentioned.
Quip by no means gained mass adoption, however had one big fan—Salesforce’s Benioff. In 2016, the startup had loads of money within the financial institution, however Benioff made a proposal that Taylor couldn’t refuse—$750 million for an organization that had raised lower than a tenth of that. “Marc—should you’ve ever met him—is a extremely charming salesperson and satisfied us,” Taylor mentioned in a podcast look final 12 months. “The value tag was, you realize, motivational as effectively.”
The acquisition was extensively seen as an costly recruitment play. Benioff had been mentoring Taylor for years by that time, and had attended most of the dinners Taylor often hosted with outstanding firm leaders, enterprise capitalists and entrepreneurs. After the deal, some inside Salesforce took to calling Taylor “the 750-million-dollar man.”
Taylor’s software program wasn’t instantly embraced at Salesforce. The service was mentioned to be so clunky at occasions that staff joked they have been caught in “Quipsand.” Some had reservations about Taylor, too, particularly after he was so rapidly elevated to a senior management position. Salesforce was primarily pushed by a gross sales and advertising tradition, and a few staffers questioned whether or not the engineer and product professional might be the form of bombastic evangelist that Benioff is. One former worker distinctly remembered Taylor’s folksy manners, incorrectly believing that Taylor had grown up in Indiana. (He was truly born in Oakland.)
However Salesforce staff got here round to Taylor’s quiet confidence—he’s picked up many obligations from his mentor over time, stepping up for keynote speeches, TV appearances, and firm all-hands displays. Each Monday, he leads a three-hour govt check-in, and he usually personally calls CEOs to shut offers, Salesforce chief product officer David Schmaier mentioned in an interview. He’s additionally taken over delivering onerous information, akin to when he informed protesting staff that the corporate wouldn’t minimize enterprise ties with the Nationwide Rifle Affiliation after the varsity taking pictures in Uvalde, Texas.
Chief advertising officer Sarah Franklin mentioned she’s seen Taylor change into extra relaxed and assured over time with the data that he has constructed the loyalty of the corporate. “I do not suppose our management crew has ever been extra aligned and communicative,” she mentioned.
His speedy ascent on the firm is largely as a consequence of his shut relationship with Benioff, mentioned most of the individuals interviewed for this story. The connection works as a result of the 2 are so completely different and “Bret doesn’t wish to be Marc,” mentioned somebody who has labored for them each. “Individuals who wish to be Marc can’t all the time work with Marc.”
Taylor has even taken on the duty Benioff could also be most well-known for: acquisitions. He performed a key position on the corporate’s three largest mergers, Slack, Tableau, and MuleSoft, price a mixed $50 billion. “Between Fb and Salesforce, I’ve acquired as many firms as in all probability most individuals you meet at this stage,” Taylor mentioned in a 2021 interview with Greylock Companions, a VC agency that invested in Quip.
Benioff was so impressed with Taylor when he purchased Quip that he made an exception to his common aversion to outdoors company boards. Benioff himself hasn’t been on one since leaving Cisco Programs Inc.’s in 2014. Former Salesforce SVP Niki Christoff mentioned she was fired from the corporate for taking an outdoor board membership in 2020. Simply weeks earlier than the Quip deal was introduced in 2016, Taylor had joined Twitter’s board, and Benioff let him stay after the deal closed.
It was Twitter, in any case. How a lot work may it’s?
Inside months of becoming a member of the board, Taylor had a front-seat to chaos. First, the corporate was itself on the block, holding discussions with a number of suitors together with Salesforce, Disney and Google. These talks fizzled out and Twitter remained impartial.
A couple of years later, in early 2020, activist traders Elliott Administration confirmed up at Twitter’s doorstep, forcing their approach onto the board and pushing for modifications to its governance construction, taking purpose at co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey. Whereas Dorsey stored his job within the quick wake of a settlement with Elliott that included particular progress and income targets, he resigned some 18 months after Elliott confirmed up. Dorsey was amongst those that wished Taylor to take over as chairman, in accordance with an individual conversant in the state of affairs, and he assumed the position in November as Dorsey left the board.
Taylor was one of many first individuals Musk spoke with because the billionaire grew to become Twitter’s largest shareholder. When the corporate discovered of his stake, it was Taylor who helped negotiate Musk’s board seat, and who first obtained the information that Musk had modified his thoughts about becoming a member of the board. When Musk provided Twitter’s administrators $54.20 a share to purchase the corporate on April 13, his supply letter was addressed to Taylor, and the 2 stayed in touch till Twitter accepted his bid virtually two weeks later.
It was a whipsaw course of, however Taylor had hashed out related massive M&A offers earlier than, each as a purchaser and as a vendor, giving him the benefit of “sample recognition,” mentioned the Twitter supply who has labored with Taylor. He understood when Twitter ought to search counsel, and when selections wanted to be made rapidly, mentioned the supply, bringing a “consolation stage and class” to the method.
On the day Twitter accepted Musk’s supply, Taylor solemnly addressed workers alongside Agrawal, explaining why the board determined to promote. Principally, he outlined “fiduciary obligation” a number of occasions, explaining that his obligation was to ship excessive returns to shareholders. One worker requested if the deal may crumble. Taylor wasn’t anxious; he mentioned that the board had taken steps to mitigate dangers, which have been principally monetary or regulatory. Maybe he by no means suspected that Musk would possibly simply change his thoughts.
It was speculated to be a clear exit. Taylor informed staff that Twitter’s board, and thus his job as chairman, would not exist beneath Musk’s possession. Taylor, who has been so adept at studying such conditions previously, had apparently misjudged Musk’s capability for mischief-making, and Twitter’s distinctive skill to seek out drama and foist its leaders into extremely public no-win conditions.
If the deal falls aside, Taylor and the remainder of Twitter’s board will undoubtedly be second-guessed for brokering a deal within the first place with Musk, a person who used the deal’s per-share worth to make a weed joke.
“The state of affairs he’s coping with will not be being fought simply within the courtroom of legislation,” mentioned tech investor Partovi, “but additionally the courtroom of public opinion.”

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