In November 2019, Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, during a visit to Nigeria surprised many people by announcing that in 2020 he will be moving to a country in Africa for six months.
“Sad to be leaving the continent…for now,” Dorsey tweeted. “Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I’ll be living here for 3-6 months mid 2020. Grateful I was able to experience a small part.”
It was one of the more interesting bits from a visit from Twitter executives which was light on talking points. But Jack Dorsey is now backtracking from his African plans, citing concerns over the global coronavirus outbreak.
He backpedaled on his earlier plans during a Q&A session at Morgan Stanley’s tech, media and Telecom conference on Thursday.
“However, with everything happening with the world, particularly coronavirus, I have to reconsider what’s going on and what that means for me and for the company,” he said, adding, “next time we give updates on this, I’ll explain all the ‘whys’ and give much deeper context.”
“I had been working on my plans where I’d work decentralized, as my team and I do when we travel, but in light of COVID-19 and everything else going on I need to reevaluate,” Dorsey said. “Either way we’ll continue to pursue opportunities in Africa.”
Despite giving these reasons, many believe that Dorsey’s real reason is concern over his leadership at Twitter.
Calls for Jack Dorsey to be replaced among investors
A few weeks after Dorsey returned to Nigeria, Prof. Scott Galloway wrote an open letter calling for Dorsey’s replacement over his announcement of a move to Africa. He also faulted Dorsey’s leadership of two companies.
Apart from leading Twitter, Dorsey is also the CEO of financial services company, Square.
Galloway’s letter starts with: “A part-time CEO who is relocating to Africa? Enough already.”
While citing concerns over Twitter’s performance, what was left unsaid was the widely held belief that Dorsey was moving to Africa for his other company, Square.
His tweet in November expressing a belief in a future for cryptocurrency in Africa may have fueled this belief.
In the end, Galloway’s letter did not change the state of affairs at Twitter, but a more influential investor is looking to do that.
Dorsey’s announcement coincides with push for leadership change by new investors
On February 29, the New York based Elliott Management Corp bought 4% of Twitter shares. The company has now nominated four directors to Twitter’s board as it reportedly makes plans to remove Dorsey as CEO.
While Galloway’s open letter might have made some headlines, it is Elliott Management which will be able to force Dorsey out from the company he co-founded.
Elliott has a history of buying stake in big companies and pushing for changes, as it did with Pernod Ricard.
It’s no surprise that this sequence of events coincide with Dorsey’s announcement. Even with his preference for remote work, trying to retain his control of Twitter will need him to be on the ground.