Elon Musk forces Linda Yaccarino to bail him out again


Linda Yaccarino has become something of a modern-day Sisyphus figure at X in recent months, doomed to push the revenue boulder up a hill only for Elon Musk to knock it back down again.

Just as the X CEO seemed to succeed in luring back a few big name advertisers to the loss-making social media platform, her company’s owner cost her a reported $75 million in lost sales by endorsing an antisemitic conspiracy theory that scared them away again.

On Thursday the former NBCUniversal exec was once more at the bottom of the hill after her boss unleashed an expletive-filled tirade against her biggest paying customers. 

In comments at the New York Time Dealbook Summit that quickly spread across the platform formerly known at Twitter, Musk told companies like Apple and Disney to “go fuck yourself” for pulling their business after they felt X had become unsafe for their brands. 

Yaccarino sought to portray his palpable frustration as part of a “wide ranging and candid” interview with the New York Times

“Here’s my perspective when it comes to advertising: X is standing at a unique and amazing intersecion of Free Speech and Main Street,” she wrote, pointing out Musk apologized for the recent anti-semitism controversy. “X is enabling an information independence that’s uncomfortable for some people.” 

Advertising dependence

Unless Yaccarino can transfer the bulk of Twitter’s half billion monthly active users to a paying subscription, she will remain dependent on ads and risk large losses due to advertisers’ boycotts—as Musk himself admitted on Wednesday.

“X is in a lot of trouble,” said Matt Smith, a Tesla bull and vice president of equity analysis at Halter Ferguson Financial. Speaking to other X users via Spaces on the platform, he urged Musk to drop his “personal vendetta” and mend fences with Disney boss Bob Iger much like he did with Apple’s Tim Cook last year when they had a dispute.

Musk’s increasingly outspoken and unconventional behavior has split the otherwise closely knit Tesla community in two. 

“Time and again he’s stepping on land mines, shooting himself in the foot for really no gain,” Smith added. “It wouldn’t surprise honestly if we see him selling some more Tesla stock to [plug] these funding gaps.”

Critics say the CEO is setting Yaccarino up to fail.

His tirade came amid a non-confrontational interview by the New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin, who largely indulged rather than challenged his comments. The embattled entrepreneur seemed to take exception to the fact that his polarizing behavior was being questioned at all.

Observers such as venture capitalist and early Twitter investor Chris Sacca have suggested this is because Musk surrounds himself with sycophants. Those that do emerge from his shadow, like Tesla’s respected finance chief Zach Kirkhorn, can find themselves given the sack out of the blue.

Former Twitter exec Esther Crawford went even further this summer. She described an environment where Musk’s capricious behavior meant few subordinates would dare question the tycoon. 

“People quickly became afraid of being called into meetings or having to share negative news with him,” said Crawford, who is versed in identifying warning signs after growing up in a cult. “The inner circle was too zealous and fanatical in their unwavering support of everything he said.”

‘The whole world will know’

Faced with pushback on Wednesday, Musk portrayed himself as a kind of savior figure. During the interview with Sorkin, he told the audience he has done “more for the environment than any single human on Earth”.

This is not the first time Musk has unleashed a tirade against those who question him. Musk did not push back on George Soros until the financier liquidated his entire holding in Tesla, after which he was branded supervillain that “hates humanity” and wants the “destruction of western civilization”. And when Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates took a short position against Tesla, Musk began launching harshly worked attacks, calling him an “asshole to the core”.

Musk’s f-bomb-laden tirade against Disney, which came as its CEO was at the same event, follows in this vein.

The richest person alive then warned that Earth’s collective nations would judge the corporations turning their backs on X should they stand by and do nothing as the social media platform he bought for $44 billion goes bankrupt.

“The whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company and we will document it in great detail,” he said. “Let’s see how Earth responds to that.”

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