Breaking: Dorsey to step down as Twitter CEO; UPDATE: "My decision and I own it"

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Can he resign in less than 140 characters? CNBC’s David Faber reports that Jack Dorsey, the controversial CEO of the social-media platform Twitter, will step down. Dorsey will instead focus on his digital-payments company Square, perhaps under pressure from a major stockholder:

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is expected to step down from his executive role, sources tell CNBC’s David Faber. …

Dorsey currently serves as both the CEO of Twitter and Square, his digital payments company. Twitter stakeholder Elliott Management had sought to replace Jack Dorsey as CEO in 2020 before the investment firm reached a deal with the company’s management.

Elliott Management founder and billionaire investor Paul Singer had wondered whether Dorsey should run both of the public companies, calling for him to step down as CEO of one of them.

Investors certainly didn’t seem to mind this news, assuming it’s true:

That spike did happen, but only briefly. Within a half hour, it settled back down to around 4% up — still significant, but not exactly a skyrocket. As I write this post, in fact, it’s still sliding back toward its opening price. Bear in mind that its current position at $48.68 is well off of Twitter’s peak 52-week price of $80.75, so it’s not as if longer-term stockholders were over the moon about Dorsey anyway.

The lack of sustained gains may well be because this isn’t exactly an unexpected development. Dorsey clearly wanted to remain in control of his social-media creation for as long as possible, but he could only hold investors off for so long. Dorsey’s interests have wandered over the last year or so anyway. Square is an obvious cash cow that needs tending, plus Dorsey has been working on initiatives with Jay-Z for Bitcoin development in Africa and India. His attention is getting spread pretty thin for investors to feel comfortable with his guidance, or at least so it seems.

Does this mean a new direction for Twitter, especially in its increasingly onerous interventions into debates? Eh, don’t bet on it. Dorsey has institutionalized that approach so much — helped by political pressure to act as a quasi-censor for unpopular opinions — that it’s tough to see any significant change from an organic succession of leadership. To effect the kind of change that would return Twitter or any other social-media platform to a true “free market of ideas” forum, it would either take an outright acquisition or the emergence of a true “free market” competitor of significance. I’d love to be proven wrong, but don’t count on this being anything more than a reshuffling of the politburo at Twitter.

Update: Dorsey insisted he resigned on his own. And he’s not going to stick around on the corporate board, either:

In other words, Dorsey made sure he chose his successors. That should make clear what the potential for positive change really is.