Elon Musk said on Tuesday that he would resign as Twitter’s chief executive when he found “someone foolish enough to take the job,” two days after he had asked his 122 million Twitter followers whether he should step down as the leader of the social media site and a majority of respondents answered yes.
Mr. Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion in late October, asked his followers the question on Sunday night after facing a backlash for unpopular new content moderation policies and the seemingly capricious barring and reinstatement of high-profile users. Even some once-staunch supporters criticized his actions, calling his antics on the platform “the last straw.”
The survey attracted 17.5 million votes. Mr. Musk had said he would abide by the result, and more than 57 percent agreed that he should step down.
But hours after the poll closed on Monday morning, Mr. Musk stayed silent. When he finally spoke up late Monday, he did not directly address the survey result. Instead, he replied to Twitter users who cast doubt on the outcome and said Twitter would change its poll feature so that only people who paid for its subscription service would be allowed to vote.
Then late on Tuesday, Mr. Musk tweeted that he planned to resign after finding a successor as chief executive. “After that, I will just run the software & servers teams,” he said.
Mr. Musk has based content moderation decisions at Twitter on past “polls.” But he has also made promises and predictions at his companies that he has failed to keep.
Inside Elon Musk’s Twitter
- A Management Guru?: To many, Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter may look like an unmitigated disaster. But his unsparing style has still made him a hero to leaders in Silicon Valley.
- Rival Platforms: Twitter rolled out a new policy to prevent users from sharing links and user names from rival social platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Mastodon. After a backlash from users, the policy was curtailed.
- Account Suspensions: Twitter’s decision to suspend (and later reinstate) the accounts of several journalists set off a heated debate about free speech and online censorship.
- An Established Pattern: Firing people. Talking about bankruptcy. Telling workers to be “hard core.” Twitter isn’t the first company that has witnessed Mr. Musk use those tactics.
It is unclear how meaningful stepping down as chief executive would be. The billionaire owns Twitter, which he took private, and will remain its proprietor. On Sunday, he tweeted that he had no successor and suggested that there were no qualified candidates to lead Twitter.
“No one who wants the job can actually keep Twitter alive,” he posted.
As soon as Mr. Musk took ownership of Twitter on Oct. 27, he fired its top executives. Other senior leaders have since been fired or resigned, leaving the executive suite vacant.
At his other companies, which include the electric automaker Tesla and the rocket maker SpaceX, Mr. Musk has sometimes appointed a key adviser to manage the business in his absence. At SpaceX, the task has fallen to Gwynne Shotwell, its president and chief operating officer.
At Twitter, Mr. Musk had opted to run the company himself. He has borrowed employees from his other companies, including Tesla and the Boring Company, a tunneling start-up, to join him. Steve Davis, the president of the Boring Company, has led various cost-cutting initiatives at Twitter. Mr. Musk has had people rotate in and out to advise him on legal and financial matters, including the investor Antonio Gracias, a former Tesla board member, and Alex Spiro, his personal lawyer.
Mr. Musk has also relied on Tesla and SpaceX employees to deal with technical matters, as layoffs and resignations have decimated Twitter’s engineering ranks. While at least one Tesla board member said he believed the carmaker’s workers would be only briefly deployed at Twitter, Mr. Musk has continued to use them, including Sheen Austin, a Tesla engineer who has been heading up Twitter’s infrastructure organization.
Some of Mr. Musk’s advisers have lobbied to lead Twitter. On Sunday, Jason Calacanis, an investor in Mr. Musk’s Twitter, asked his own followers on the platform if he or the venture capitalist David Sacks should be Twitter’s chief executive, or share the position.
Mr. Musk, who was in Qatar for the World Cup final this weekend with Jared Kushner, is also seeking new investment in Twitter. After he sold $3.6 billion of Tesla shares last week, his finance team, led by Jared Birchall, the head of his family office, sent emails to potential investors, said one person who was approached to invest and who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The emails to potential backers invited them to invest at the $54.20 share price that Mr. Musk paid to buy the company, the person said. But Mr. Musk has since publicly said the price he paid for Twitter was more than twice what it was worth. The potential fund-raising was reported earlier by Semafor.
Mr. Musk has continued to aggressively slash costs at Twitter. On Friday night, the company began another round of layoffs, according to four people with knowledge of the actions and documents seen by The New York Times. About 50 employees, mainly from the company’s infrastructure division, were cut, the people said. It was unclear how other divisions were affected.
“After further review of our work force, we have identified roles within our organizational structure which are no longer necessary,” a Twitter email, which was shared with The Times, said.
Twitter, which had about 7,500 employees when Mr. Musk took over, has lost roughly 70 percent through layoffs, firings and resignations. The Information earlier reported the most recent round of cuts.