NBCUniversal announced Friday that its head of advertising, Linda Yaccarino, is leaving her post “effectively immediately” as the long-tenured executive reportedly engages in advanced talks with Elon Musk to take over as the next CEO of Twitter.
Yaccarino’s departure from NBCUniversal was confirmed in a press release one day after Musk cryptically announced he had hired a female executive who “will be starting in ~6 weeks.”
“It has been an absolute honor to be part of Comcast NBCUniversal and lead the most incredible team,” Yaccarino said in a statement.
“We’ve transformed our company and the entire industry—and I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together, and grateful to my colleagues and mentors, especially Brian Roberts, Mike Cavanagh and the entire NBCU leadership team.”
Shortly after Musk posted his announcement on Twitter, the Wall Street Journal reported that Yaccarino was in talks with the billionaire.
In place of Yaccarino, NBCUniversal said Mark Marshall, its current president of ad sales and client partnership, would serve of interim chairman of the company’s advertising and partnerships group.
An NBCU executive for more than a decade, Yaccarino is well-respected in media circles and played a major role in the launch of the company’s ad-supported streaming service, Peacock.
Yaccarino had hovered in Musk’s orbit since shortly after he closed his Twitter acquisition last October. Last month, Yaccarino appeared on stage with Musk during a keynote event entitled “Twitter 2.0: From Conversations to Partnerships” at the Possible marketing conference in Miami Beach.
When Musk faced a public backlash from Twitter’s angry corporate advertisers, Yaccarino jumped to his defense.
“You’ve got to give the guy a minute,” Yaccarino said at an Ad Age conference last November, according to Deadline. She added that she wouldn’t “bet against him.”
Yaccarino also said that she was “obsessed” and “fascinated” with Musk’s high-profile takeover of the company.
Aside from her work with NBCUniversal, Yaccarino notably has ties to the World Economic Forum, serving as the international organization’s chair on the Taskforce on the Future of Work.
Musk has been sharply critical of the WEF in the past, declaring in January that it was “increasingly becoming an unelected world government that the people never asked for and don’t want.”
Twitter’s “commitment to open source transparency and accepting a wide range of viewpoints remains unchanged” after its leadership shakeup, Musk said in a tweet late Thursday.
Yaccarino’s reported candidacy for the Twitter gig has rankled critics on both sides of the political aisle – with liberals grumbling that she once served on former President Donald Trump’s council on sports, fitness and nutrition and conservatives questioning her WEF ties.
A glowing profile on NBCUniversal’s website notes that Yaccarino’s team “has generated more than $100 billion in ad sales” since she joined the company in 2011.
She also “expanded the company’s reach globally, forged groundbreaking ad partnerships, launched the first ad-supported streaming service, and made massive investments in data and technology capabilities,” according to the company.
If she is formally tapped as Twitter CEO, Yaccarino would take over a company in the midst of a closely scrutinized overhaul following Musk’s $44 billion acquisition last fall.
The billionaire has embarked on a significant cost-cutting initiative — including mass layoffs — and launched a revamped “Twitter Blue” subscription service in a bid to create new revenue streams.
Yaccarino’s involvement could help soothe worried advertisers – who have fled Twitter in droves since last year over concerns about Musk’s loosened content moderation practices and decision to allow any user to pay for account verification.
Yaccarino’s ties to the advertising world and digital experience make her the “right hire for Musk’s visions,” according to Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives.
“There is heavy lifting ahead for Twitter on the digital advertising front as the platform now needs to get back advertisers while monetizing its user base,” Ives said in a Friday note. “Twitter needs a CEO that can hit the ground running and try to turnaround the Twitter platform with a key 6 to 12 months ahead.”
For months, Musk has signaled that he would step down as Twitter CEO once he had identified a suitable candidate. The billionaire had openly grumbled about the difficulty of finding a replacement as he faced investor pressure to refocus on his other CEO gigs at Tesla and SpaceX.
Tesla shares jumped 2% after Musk’s initial announcement on Thursday as stockholders welcomed the news.
This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.
This story originally appeared on NYPost