Elon Musk Apologises To Sacked Twitter Worker

Elon Musk has issued a rare public apology to a Twitter worker he fired, following a public exchange of tweets in which former senior director of product design Halli Thorleifsson told the boss he was unable to determine whether he was still employed at the company.

“Your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am employed or not,” Thorleifsson wrote to Musk in a tweet, to which Musk replied, “What work have you been doing?”

Following an exchange of tweets Thorleifsson said he had received an email confirming he had been sacked.

Musk later wrote in in a now-deleted tweet, “He’s the worst, sorry.”

‘Did no actual work’

The following day he continued his criticism of Thorleifsson, writing, “The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm. Can’t say I have a lot of respect for that.”

Other industry figures spoke up for Thorleifsson, with former Lonely Planet chief executive Daniel Houghton writing, “As someone who has worked directly with Halli Thorleifsson during a turnaround, this is super disappointing to see. Not only is his work ethic next level, his talent and humility are world class.”

“Exactly the kind of person you want on your team when the odds are stacked. I feel certain there’s a deep misunderstanding somewhere in here of ‘did no actual work’,” Houghton added.

Musk replied to Houghton that after reading his message he initiated a video call with Thorleifsson “to figure out what’s real vs what I was told”.

Severance costs

“It’s a long story. Better to talk to people than communicate via tweet,” Musk wrote.

“I would like to apologise to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation. It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful,” Musk wrote in a separate mesage, adding that Thorleifsson was “considering remaining at Twitter”.

Thorleifsson operated successful Iceland-based creative agency Ueno before selling it to Twitter in 2021.

Industry experts have suggested that Twitter has until now been reluctant to fire company founders such as Thorleifsson because their terms of employment involve substantial severance packages.

Twitter users have speculated Thorleifsson’s severance package could be worth $100 million (£83m), making it more expensive to fire him than to retain him.

Turnaround plans

Separately, Musk told a Morgan Stanley investor conference it was “startling” how badly Twitter had been managed before his arrival and said his cost-cutting – including multiple rounds of mass layoffs and ceasing office rent payments – had reduced projected non-debt expenditures for 2023 from $4.5bn to $1.5bn.

He said his turnaround plans include making Twitter ads more relevant, bringing back advertisers and introducing payments.

“I think it’s possible to become the biggest financial institution in the world,” he told the conference via webcast, Reuters reported.

Musk added that he might remain chief executive of Twitter beyond the end of this year, saying it might take two years to build his management team.

In December Musk said he would step down as chief executive after a Twitter poll came out in favour of his doing so.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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