Who Is Linda Yaccarino, Elon Musk’s Pick to Run Twitter?

Known as the “velvet hammer,” the ad exec could be just what the social media company needs

Linda Yaccarino, reportedly Elon Musk's pick as the new CEO of Twitter, and Lorne Michaels speak on stage during the NBC session at the Cannes Lions 2019.
Linda Yaccarino and Lorne Michaels speak on stage during the NBC session at the Cannes Lions 2019.
Richard Bord/Getty for Cannes Lions

In Elon Musk’s own words, running Twitter since October 2022 has been “quite a stressful situation” and “quite painful.” But he’s apparently had a difficult time finding someone to replace him in the day-to-day operations, partly because, in his opinion, to run the social media company, “[y]ou must like pain a lot.” 

What does that say about Linda Yaccarino? On Thursday, Musk announced on Twitter that he had hired a new CEO for both Twitter and its new parent company X Corp. Following the news, The Wall Street Journal reported that Yaccarino was “in talks” to take the position, noting that her previous employer NBCU said she was immediately departing her position as chairman of global advertising and partnerships. Then on Friday morning, Musk confirmed the hire.

So who is Linda Yaccarino? Among media buyers, she’s known as the “velvet hammer,” with “a reputation for hard-nosed negotiating tactics,” as the Journal wrote. At NBCU, she “[oversaw] roughly $13 billion in annual ad revenue [and was] well-known for her tight relationship with marketers and ad agencies.”

While more details are yet to surface about recent conversations between her and Musk, they both met on a high-profile stage last month. On April 18, Yaccarino interviewed the current Twitter CEO at a major marketing conference in Miami, and the two seemed to hit it off; she called it “such a treat and a special opportunity” to talk with him, and Musk left the talk with what amounts to the full-throated support of a major player in the advertising industry. 

“So I think what we heard today is some really important and profound things,” Yaccarino said at the end of the 40-minute conversation. She added, “If freedom of speech, as he says, is the bedrock of this country, I’m not sure there’s anyone in this room who could disagree with that. Could I get a round of applause for that? But I want to be clear: the path here today wasn’t without a lot of chatter, because this guy is here, there’s always a lot of chatter, but I believe if this is a marketing conference for marketing executives that influence culture in this country, it is the responsibility of everybody in this room to offer a helping hand [to Twitter and Musk].”

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Now Yaccarino is about to take her own advice and offer the most direct of helping hands to her new boss. In his announcement of the new hire, Musk said he would “focus on product design & new technology” while she handles “business operations.”

Hiring an ad-savvy dealmaker like Yaccarino is crucial for the immediate viability of Twitter, as advertisers have fled the platform during Musk’s controversial tenure. 

Hiring anyone to replace Musk, though, is also crucial for the Tesla CEO’s credibility. Back in December, he famously created a Twitter poll asking if he should step down as head of the social media company, promising to abide by the results. Out of 17.5 million votes, 57.5% said “yes.” 

Update, 5/12/23, 2:43 p.m.: This story has been edited to include Elon Musk’s confirmation of the hire.

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