Twitter's investors fired cofounders Jack Dorsey and Ev Williams as CEO in a messy, unfair fashion, according to Chris Sacca, an early advisor and investor who now runs a fund devoted to private trades of Twitter shares.
He made the comments in an on-stage interview at the PandoMonthly event series in Los Angeles Thursday night.
Jack Dorsey, Twitter's first CEO, who now serves as its executive chairman, was fired in 2008. The reasons insiders give vary, but they center around Dorsey's inability to manage Twitter's frequent outages; botched communication with the board about a buyout offer Twitter got from Facebook; and Williams's increasing interest in running the fast-growing company as it was starting to take off.
“I don’t think the way Jack was fired was fair,” Sacca said in the interview, a video of which is available on PandoDaily. “I was there. I was an advisor to the company. I was consulted on it. And the original plan was to send him on his way."*
Sacca said that Dick Costolo, a former Google executive who was also an investor and advisor to the company, insisted that Dorsey maintain the title of chairman and be well-compensated.
Sacca said Costolo wanted to make sure Dorsey didn't "feel screwed" in the process. It's odd that Costolo had so much authority at Twitter back then.
Costolo went on to become COO of Twitter. In 2010, he was promoted to CEO. Williams took on a role overseeing Twitter's product. And Dorsey quietly returned to the company, moonlighting at Twitter while also running Square, the payments startup he had cofounded in exile.
In part because of Dorsey's return, Williams never actually returned to an active role at Twitter. In March 2011, Twitter acknowledged Dorsey's return.
Williams was never formally fired, but he stopped showing up to work.
“The way shit went down around Ev … ultimately Ev just chose to leave,” Sacca said.
Williams retained his seat on the board and is the largest investor in Twitter, which was most recently valued at more than $8 billion in its latest private financing.
Twitter's cofounders rarely discuss their firings. In a rare interview, Dorsey told Vanity Fair last year that his removal as CEO was like "getting punched in the stomach."
More recently, Dorsey and Williams have taken steps toward reconciliation. Over the summer, they dined together in San Francisco.
And these days, Dorsey spends considerably less time at Twitter, leaving the company solidly in Costolo's hands.
The company's third cofounder, Biz Stone, is now running a startup incubator with Williams.
The company has a boilerplate statement it repeats when asked about its founders' ousters:
Twitter’s three co-founders—Ev Williams, Biz Stone, and Jack—have unselfishly played whatever role was most needed at the time to nurture the company and help the product reach its full potential.
We've invited Twitter to update that statement in light of Sacca's comments.
NOTE: In the original version of this post, we inferred that Sacca had said that Ev Williams and Twitter's other board members were behind the plan to oust Jack Dorsey. Sacca did not specify this. We apologize for the mistake.
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