The fortunes of Twitter

By Felix Salmon
April 14, 2011
astonishing amounts of money:

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How much are high-value employees worth in Silicon Valley? Quite astonishing amounts of money:

Dorsey came back to Twitter after the company had tried and failed to lure two senior product managers from Google. In both cases the company was fairly close to closing the deal when Google made counteroffers, showering them with restricted stock grants that are reported to be worth more than $50 million in each case. (Clearly, product people are in high demand in Silicon Valley.)

But then again, $100 million is just 1% of what Google was willing to pay for Twitter:

Last fall Microsoft, Google, and Facebook itself all considered buying the company. Microsoft never made an offer, according to sources, but Facebook is believed to have offered $2 billion for Twitter, and Google, by far the most serious, offered as much as $10 billion.

The offers last fall came just five years after Evan Williams bought back Twitter’s parent for $5 million. Going from $5 million to $10 billion in five years is pretty impressive even by Silicon Valley standards, and especially so in a company which never seems to have had a very good CEO or a helpful board.

There’s no shortage of drama at Twitter these days: Besides the CEO shuffles, there are secret board meetings, executive power struggles, a plethora of coaches and consultants, and disgruntled founders.

That kind of thing seems to have worked wonders so far. The main lesson here, I think, is that for all the talk of “leadership” and the like, the most successful CEOs are just the CEOs who happen to sit atop the most successful companies. Sometimes they’re good managers, sometimes they’re not. And there’s little non-circular evidence to suggest that good managers do measurably better than anybody else once they get the CEO job.

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