Twitter once dumped co-founder Jack Dorsey as its CEO because he was deemed unqualified for the job. Now, the short-messaging service is giving Dorsey a second chance, at least temporarily, to prove he can turn Twitter into a profitable business and lure more people into sharing tidbits of news, entertainment, insight and tedium.
Dorsey’s return as Twitter’s interim CEO, effective July 1, is the latest peculiar twist at a San Francisco company teeming with the drama of a soap opera through much of its nine-year history.
Even Twitter’s origins are a matter of dispute. Dorsey has said he came up with the idea on his own while at a San Francisco playground. That accounts conflicts with another Twitter co-founder, Noah Glass, who said he and Dorsey came up with the concept while sitting in a car parked on a rain-slickened street in San Francisco at the end of an evening drinking vodka.
Here’s quick look at the cast of characters that have passed through Twitter’s revolving CEO door:
A one-time punk rocker who once wore a nose ring, Dorsey is sometimes touted as the technology industry’s next Steve Jobs — a comparison that he has never discouraged.
Dorsey’s appointment as Twitter’s interim CEO draws more parallels with Jobs, Apple’s co-founder. After being ousted from Apple in the mid-1980s, Jobs came back as the company’s interim CEO in 1997 and then stayed on oversee the creation of the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
While running Apple, Jobs also was CEO of computer animation pioneer Pixar. Dorsey, 38, will remain CEO at another San Francisco company, mobile payment processor Square, while guiding Twitter.
Dorsey should be highly motivated to lift Twitter’s stock price, which has plunged by about 30 percent since the late April release of its first-quarter results amplified investor concerns about the company’s uninterrupted history of losses. He owns a 3.6 percent stake in Twitter currently worth about $850 million.
Williams, a Twitter co-founder who grew up as a Nebraska farm boy, cast aside Dorsey as CEO in 2008. At that time, Williams was considered to be a better suited leader as Twitter tried to mature from a fun-loving startup plagued by frequent service outages.
As part of the change in command, Dorsey handed over the voting rights of his Twitter stock to Williams. Dorsey regained those rights when Twitter completed its initial public offering of stock in November 2013.
Williams remains a Twitter director and the company’s largest stockholder with a 7.8 percent stake worth $1.8 billion.
Twitter turned to this former stand-up comic as he got more serious about the business side of things. After joining Twitter as its chief operating officer in 2009, Costolo replaced Williams as CEO less than a year later.
Costolo brought more stability to Twitter’s service by building more data centers to handle all the tweets. He also oversaw a period of rapid user and employee growth while injecting ads into Twitter’s stream of tweets. Those achievements have been eclipsed by his inability to come up for a formula for making money at Twitter. Many analysts also blame Costolo for the structure of Twitter’s service, which has been criticized as being too complicated for casual users to understand and navigate.
Not long after he took over the reins, Costolo convinced Dorsey to come back to Twitter as an adviser — a role that cracked the door for Dorsey’s imminent return as interim CEO.