Who Is Linda Yaccarino And Why Is Elon Musk's New Twitter CEO So Divisive?

Elon Musk announced Friday morning, on Twitter of course, that Linda Yaccarino will be the next CEO of the social media platform. For some people, including many of his followers, this wasn't a total surprise, because a day earlier he announced he'd be stepping down and teased that his replacement, who he hadn't yet named, was a "she." Soon after, both media outlets and Twitter users had come to a consensus that it would be Yaccarino. Before Musk could even confirm her new role, it was already apparent that the new CEO was going to be a divisive choice.

This isn't Twitter's first controversial decision, especially since billionaire Elon Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter last October. Musk has played a prominent role in Silicon Valley since co-founding PayPal in 2000, and is currently CEO of both Tesla and SpaceX. It's been a nonstop contentious period for Twitter since Musk became its CEO and immediately began making drastic changes to make the company more profitable and align with his own personal values concerning free speech. These changes included laying off three-quarters of Twitter's employees, including top executives, and creating a more intense work atmosphere where workers were expected to put in long hours. It was likely inevitable that Musk would step down as CEO, poll or not. Investors from his other companies — especially Tesla, which has been struggling — have shown concern that Musk was stretching himself too thin by being so hands-on at Twitter.

In December 2022, Musk tweeted a poll asking users if he should step down as CEO, and said that he would "abide by the results." After 57.5% of respondents voted "Yes," Musk said he would resign "as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job!" Five months later, Musk kept to his word with his announcement that Yaccarino would succeed him in six weeks. Musk will transition to Chief Technology Officer, where he will continue to oversee the company's system ops, software, and products.

Yaccarino is a mother of two from New York with decades of experience in media

According to a 2013 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Linda Yaccarino calls herself a "born-and-bred New Yorker," hailing from Deer Park, New York. At the time of the interview, she was married with two adult children, a son named Matthew Madrazo and a daughter named Christian Madrazo. Until she resigned shortly after Musk announced Twitter would have a new CEO, Yaccarino was the Chairman of Global Advertising & Partnerships at NBCUniversal, where she has worked for over 11 years. There, she oversaw a team of 2,000 employees that generated over $100 billion in ad sales for parent company Comcast. In particular, she fostered relationships between the old media giant and newer tech companies like BuzzFeed, Snapchat, Apple News, and, notably, Twitter (Yaccarino has had a personal Twitter account since 2012). Yaccarino even spoke with Musk in a public keynote last month about the complicated connections between Twitter's platform, cultural conversations, and advertisers.

By bringing in Yaccarino, Musk is placing Twitter in the hands of someone with decades of media experience. Long before becoming chairman at NBCUniversal, Yaccarino got her start as an intern in its media planning department, shortly after graduating from Penn State. In 1992, she moved to Turner, where she worked her way up to Executive Vice President/COO of Advertising Sales, Marketing, And Acquisitions, before returning to NBCUniversal in 2011. Her wealth of experience and status as an industry insider should placate advertisers wary of spending money on Musk's Twitter, and possibly bring back the ones who've already left. 

As her former NBCUniversal bio detailed, as head of the Ad Council, Yaccarino worked with the Biden White House, business community, and government agencies to help create a COVID-19 vaccination campaign. By all accounts, she seems like a rational choice for CEO. So why is the announcement already causing an uproar?

A divisive choice

Within hours of Musk's announcement, top trending topics on Twitter included both "Welcome Linda" and "RIP Twitter," with the latter at 60,000 tweets and counting. Musk's Twitter has been no stranger to controversy, and not just because of his layoffs and work environment. Musk's decision to charge $8 per month for blue checks, rather than using them as a verification symbol, has caused some long-time users to leave the platform for other sites. And Musk's focus on "free speech," which includes giving previously-banned extreme right-wing voices their accounts back, has left other users dissatisfied with the platform, claiming their timelines are now populated with hate speech and other unwanted content. Most Twitter Blue accounts are now plainly Musk supporters, and their tweets get more visibility as a perk of the paid subscription.

But these same supporters, many of which skew libertarian or to the right, are taking issue with Musk's intended CEO successor. Yaccarino has previously worked with the World Economic Forum, an independent international organization that many anti-globalists vehemently oppose. Yaccarino also advocated for COVID vaccines and mask-wearing, and publicly advocated for hiring equality at NBCUniversal, values that run counter to that of many of Musk's supporters. Meanwhile, critics of Musk's Twitter are also wary of Yaccarino's appointment. She previously served on President Trump's Council on Sports Fitness and Nutrition and follows the accounts of right-wing conspiracy theorists and insurrectionists like Jack Posobiec, Sidney Powell, and Chaya Raichik. 

Critics from all sides are unsure what to make of Linda Yaccarino and what it could mean for the social media company moving forward, including its advertising potential and the content it platforms. In roughly six weeks, everyone will start to have a better idea of what Twitter's next era under Yaccarino's leadership will be.