Elon Musk plans to eliminate half of Twitter jobs to cut costs: Sources

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SAN FRANCISCO – Billionaire Elon Musk plans to eliminate about 3,700 jobs at Twitter, or half of the social media company’s workforce, in a bid to drive down costs after his US$44 billion (S$62 billion) acquisition, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

Twitter’s new owner aims to inform affected employees on Friday, said the sources.

Mr Musk also intends to reverse the company’s existing work-from-anywhere policy, asking remaining employees to report to offices – though some exceptions could be made, the sources said.

Mr Musk and a team of advisers have been weighing a range of scenarios for job cuts and other policy changes at San Francisco-based Twitter, the sources said, adding that the terms of the headcount reduction could still change. In one scenario being considered, laid-off workers will be offered 60 days’ worth of severance pay.

After the layoffs were organised, Twitter chief accounting officer Robert Kaiden left the company, becoming one of the last pre-Musk top executives to depart, according to people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Musk is under pressure to find ways to slash the costs of a business for which he says he overpaid.

He agreed to pay US$54.20 a share in April just as markets tumbled. He then tried for months to get out of the transaction, alleging that the company misled him about the prevalence of fake accounts.

Twitter sued to force Mr Musk to make good on his agreement, and in recent weeks, Mr Musk caved, resigning himself to closing the deal at the agreed-upon terms.

The take-private deal closed last Thursday.

Twitter employees have been bracing themselves for layoffs ever since Mr Musk took over and immediately ousted much of the top executive team, including chief executive Parag Agrawal, finance chief Ned Segal and senior legal employees Vijaya Gadde and Sean Edgett.

In the days that followed, other departures have included chief marketing officer Leslie Berland, chief customer officer Sarah Personette and Mr Jean-Philippe Maheu, who was vice-president of global client solutions.

Mr Musk anointed himself “Chief Twit” in his bio on the social network.

Bloomberg reported earlier that he would take on the role of interim chief executive himself. He also dissolved the company’s board and became sole director, saying later that it is “just temporary”.

At the weekend, a few employees with director and vice-president jobs were cut, sources familiar with the matter said.

Other leaders were asked to make lists of employees on their teams who could be cut, the sources said.

Senior personnel on the product teams were asked to target a 50 per cent reduction in headcount, a source familiar with the matter said this week. Engineers and director-level staff from Tesla, the carmaker also run by Mr Musk, apparently reviewed the lists.

Layoff lists were drawn up and ranked based on individuals’ contributions to Twitter’s code during their time at the company, the sources said.

The assessment was made by both Tesla personnel and Twitter managers.

Concerns over steep personnel cuts started to swirl in the run-up to Mr Musk’s buyout, when potential investors were told that he would eliminate 75 per cent of the workforce, which stood at about 7,500 at the end of 2021. Mr Musk later denied that the cuts would be that deep.

In recent weeks, Mr Musk started hinting at his staffing priorities, saying he wants to focus on the core product.

“Software engineering, server operations and design will rule the roost,” he tweeted in early October.

Mr Musk is trying to generate more revenue too. The company will soon start charging for verification.

The badges will be part of an US$8-a-month subscription that could go live as early as Monday, according to people familiar with the plans.

Users who already have a blue verification badge will have a multi-month grace period before they will either need to pay for the badge or lose it, said one of the people. BLOOMBERG

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