Ali Rowghani, COO of Twitter, resigned from his job at the social communications site, announcing the move in a tweet.
While his tweet makes clear he is leaving the company, according to a company filing, he is staying as a “strategic advisor” to CEO Dick Costolo. Translation: He’s leaving.
The move is likely to reinforce the image of Twitter as a bit of a revolving door and a place of management chaos. Others think the fixing of an exec structure that is not working is a good thing.
The San Francisco-based company said it was axing the COO position altogether, noting it “does not intend to hire a replacement for the COO role, and all of Mr. Rowghani’s operating responsibilities will be assumed by other members of the Twitter management team.”
I’ll translate that, too, since Rowghani — despite his high status — did not actually have much reporting to him at this point. The product organization, now headed by recent hire and former Google exec Daniel Graf, reports already to Costolo.
Sources said the media and international units are likely to be taken over by marketing and communications and business development to the sales org, but that is still undetermined.
Here’s Rowghani’s tweet:
Goodbye Twitter. It's been an amazing ride, and I will cherish the memories.—
Ali Rowghani (@ROWGHANI) June 12, 2014
That was followed by a tweet by Costolo:
Let’s just say, resignation in the digital age is so efficient.
Well, not exactly.
Re/code had reported yesterday that the exec was under fire inside the company for a number of reasons, including an inability to spur growth and innovate the product. In addition, there was some controversy over his selling of a large amount of stock while the company’s shares were on a downward spiral and also some press that painted him as the company’s “co-CEO.”
Rowghani has been at the company for just over four years, coming to Twitter as CFO from Pixar, where he was also CFO. He was elevated to COO in late 2012.
For a long time, Rowghani was considered one of Twitter’s most valuable assets. But recently, he has been under fire for a number of reasons.
As I wrote last night, ahead of this news:
Twitter announced in 2012 that it had more than 200 million active users — who are people who used the service at least once a month. Soon after, Costolo told employees he expected to get to 400 million users by the end of 2013. Twitter ended 2013 with 240 million users and in was 255 million at the end of the first quarter of 2014.
“If [Rowghani] had nailed growth, that would have been great,” said one source with knowledge of the debate over how to turbocharge the company. “But he did not, and it was not clear he was the one that could.”
To be fair, Rowghani has been instrumental in a number of ways, including the acquisition of social TV analytics startup Bluefin Labs and the deal with Nielsen to create the Twitter rating system. That said, his strong backing of the recently abandoned purchase of music-sharing service SoundCloud was another black eye for him, after news of it leaked. The deal received a poor reception on Wall Street.
In addition, there was controversy over his sale of 300,000 shares in May:
For example, there has been some tension among the Twitter top staff over the May sale of 300,000 shares of stock, for $9.9 million in profits, by Rowghani. The transaction came as Twitter shares have been under a lot of pressure and on a very downward slide and as other insiders, including Costolo and co-founders and directors Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams, vowed not to sell as a signal of confidence about Twitter’s prospects.
There was, in fact, a question at a recent “tea time” — bi-weekly employee meetings with top execs — about Rowghani’s large sale of his shares. Those in attendance told me that Rowghani got up and told the audience that he was not thrilled to answer the question, but noted that he wanted the money to give to research to battle a disease that took his father’s life. It was an emotional address, said those present.
This came after a poor internal reception — including among directors — of an article in the Wall Street Journal on April 29 that dubbed the 41-year-old Rowghani Twitter’s “Mr. Fix-It” and said he was seen inside the company as a “co-CEO among employees” to Costolo.
Not so much, and the characterization chafed board members and other top managers, since the issues of growth — really, lack thereof — has been on Rowghani’s plate to start with since last year.
There will be more to come. As I wrote, there is a “streamlining” being contemplated of all of the units of the company under HR head Brian Schipper, whom sources said has been charged by Costolo to look over the current structure of Twitter for changes that will vault it forward.
Graf has already reorged his unit, said sources.
“It’s a good thing to upgrade now and maybe bring in some new people,” said one person familiar with the situation. “This is not a negative thing, but the way companies evolve.”
Here’s Twitter’s short filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission: