Twitter’s CEO post is a non-job if Elon Musk can’t vacate it | Nils Pratley

Tesla shareholders hoping for the full attention of their distracted CEO are likely to be disappointed

Management by Twitter poll is such a silly idea that it remains hard to believe Elon Musk was being sincere when he invited the site’s users to determine if he should continue as chief executive. One suspects he had already decided to hire an executive to front the business – which is what, note, he told a Delaware court he would do several weeks ago. The poll merely created a buzz.

In the unlikely event that users had voted to keep him as boss, Musk could have given roughly the same answer as the one he is giving now. In short, he will stay in charge for a while because a chief executive cannot be recruited overnight.

The bigger question is what real power a new Twitter chief executive will have. Not much, probably. Musk will continue to own Twitter and will be free to interfere. Even when confirming he’ll step down, he said he intends to be in charge of the software side. The vacancy sounds more like a chief operating officer position. Scope to defy Musk, even on minor policies, will always be limited.

The outcome, then, looks set to be extremely messy from the point of view of Tesla shareholders who would prefer a clean ending. Tesla’s stock price was $333 in April when the $44bn takeover bid was launched; it was $230 when the deal completed in late October; and it is now $137. Yes, the wider tech sector has been weak throughout the period; and, yes, higher interest rates are a factor, as Musk likes to argue. But his sales of shares in the electric car company (nearly $40bn-worth since late last year), his absence from day-to-day duties and the general blurring of lines have plainly contributed to the decline.

Musk’s stake in Tesla is only 13% so, in other circumstances, the board and shareholders would have some leverage to tell him to concentrate on the day job. That, though, is plainly not going to happen. For as long as Musk is describing Twitter as a plane heading for a crash landing, he will be hands-on, whatever his job title. This saga is going to run and run, and Tesla shareholders had better get used to the fact.

Qualifying for an F for failure in accountancy

A partner at a top UK accountancy firm can expect to earn close to £1m a year, so perhaps we should not be surprised that employees might cheat in the professional exams that are an entry requirement for the gravy train.

Even so, it’s a shocker that supposedly top-notch partnerships can’t be trusted to get their houses in order to run an honest exam system, which shouldn’t be the hardest task in the world given the financial resources at their disposal.

The Financial Reporting Council, the accountancy watchdog, didn’t give a detailed account of how widespread cheating is suspected to be in the UK. It hasn’t uncovered “systemic” issues, it said; on the other hand, there are “live” issues and its assessment is “ongoing”, which sounds bad enough. Indeed, American regulators have already fined the UK arm of KPMG.

The professional firms’ bigger failing is obviously the shocking number of auditing scandals in recent years. But there is a connection: if the exams are seen as open to abuse, the rot will spread.

Still too little light on the Bulb transfer

The government is finally lifting the veil – a little – on the terms of the transfer of Bulb, the bust energy supplier, to Octopus. As the deal completed, the business department said Octopus would get a funding facility of up to £4.5bn to cover the costs of buying energy for Bulb’s customers until the end of next March.

Actual use of the facility should be lower because wholesale energy prices have fallen recently (even if the outlook for early 2023 doesn’t look as good). So, even when counting the £1.1bn bill for taxpayers for owning Bulb for 12 months, we should not be on the hook for the £6.5bn cited by the Office for Budget Responsibility; its figure now looks a theoretical, but not very likely, accounting maximum.

What we haven’t got, though, is disclosure around what Octopus is paying for Bulb’s business (estimates of £100m-£200m have never been confirmed) or the terms of the loan being advanced. In the round, the level of transparency around this transaction remains appalling.


Nils Pratley

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Twitter’s board deserves credit for Elon Musk’s U-turn
By sticking to its guns the firm has defended the excellent principle that bidders should do what they’ve agreed to do

Nils Pratley

05, Oct, 2022 @7:42 PM

Article image
For Elon Musk, Twitter is a time-wasting folly he doesn’t know what to do with
Shouting about free speech was easier than actually managing a social media platform. Tesla’s shareholders must be looking on in horror

Nils Pratley

31, Oct, 2022 @6:44 PM

Article image
Elon Musk needs to realise Twitter is a hobby and Tesla is his priority | Nils Pratley
Whether or not his poll was genuine, Musk would be wise to take a step back from the social media site

Nils Pratley

19, Dec, 2022 @6:52 PM

Article image
Elon Musk sells new $3.6bn tranche of Tesla shares
Latest selloff takes total sale this year to $23bn and follows loss of world’s richest man title

Dan Milmo

15, Dec, 2022 @10:41 AM

Article image
Will Elon Musk really let Twitter go bust?
Advertising shortfall and issues over subscription revenues should worry new owner given huge level of debt

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

29, Nov, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
Elon Musk to launch new blue, gold and grey Twitter ticks
New colour-coded categories next week for individuals, government and firms with accounts ‘manually authenticated’

Dan Milmo Global technology editor

25, Nov, 2022 @1:32 PM

Article image
Tesla stock has only plunged to a less ludicrous level as competitors catch up | Nils Pratley
Elon Musk’s misadventure with Twitter is not the main factor in the dramatic decline in value

Nils Pratley

04, Jan, 2023 @6:20 PM

Article image
Elon Musk memo suggests Twitter worth less than half of what he paid for it
Calculation based on leaked offer to staff that implies firm valued at $20bn compared with $44bn he bought it for

Anna Isaac

26, Mar, 2023 @3:27 PM

Article image
Elon Musk’s $2.9bn Twitter stake comes with few upsides | Nils Pratley
The Tesla boss could lose focus on the day job if he gets sucked into disputes about social media and free speech

Nils Pratley

04, Apr, 2022 @5:31 PM

Article image
Elon Musk completes Twitter takeover amid hate speech concerns
Shares delisted and top execs reportedly fired as world’s richest man closes deal to buy social media platform

Dan Milmo, Jasper Jolly, Alex Hern in London and Kari Paul in San Francisco

28, Oct, 2022 @4:25 PM