If the stock market is truly reflective of a particular company's viability, then Twitter may be in trouble.
After news that close to half of its executive staff had resigned became public Sunday night, the stock was down by 6 percent shortly after the markets opened on Monday. By early afternoon it had recovered somewhat, but was still down about 3.5 percent.
News of four executives leaving any company suddenly and at the same time would rattle the markets. But Twitter was already dealing with wavering investor confidence and the perennial question of when, oh when, will its user base show real growth.
But the true indicator of how the market is feeling about Twitter is this: since Jack Dorsey returned to Twitter last year as a part-time CEO to turn the company around, the stock has dropped close to 50 percent.
A Clumsy Departure
A Tweet by Dorsey made clear that the company was hoping to handle the news of the departures in a slightly different manner.
Media sources began reporting the departures on Sunday night following initial reports by Re/code. Dorsey responded soon after, via Twitter, questioning the accuracy of some of the coverage.
Was really hoping to talk to Twitter employees about this later this week, but want to set the record straight now: pic.twitter.com/PcpRyTzOlW— Jack (@jack) January 25, 2016
The executives who "have chosen to leave," as Dorsey put it, are Alex Roetter, senior vice president of engineering; Brian "Skip" Schipper, vice president of human resources; Katie Stanton, vice president of global media; and Kevin Weil, senior vice president of product.
Separately, Jason Toff, general manager of Twitter’s short video sharing app Vine announced he was leaving for Google to work on virtual reality in his own Tweet.
Personal update! I'm joining Google to work on VR. So much exciting potential there.— Jason Toff (@jasontoff) January 25, 2016
Profits are the Problem
Many are speculating that Dorsey asked Roetter, Schipper, Stanton and Weil to leave.
“It is very telling that these folks are in HR, marketing and product,” Rob Enderle, principal of Bend, Ore-based Enderle Group told CMSWire.
That suggests that Dorsey is looking to put in place others who are loyal to him and that have expertise in turnarounds, Enderle said.
"Turnarounds in general are not easy to execute and Dorsey doesn’t have experience with them," Enderle said. “Furthermore he is only part time and a turnaround is a full-time endeavor.”
Chances are that Dorsey will not replace all four executives either, Enderle said. "Twitter was very top heavy with executives, which can be extremely expensive for a company not operating in the black."
Unfortunately for Twitter, their departure will probably not help its financials in the short term. Third quarter earnings disappointed the market, as did the lowered forecast. And while the company reported 320 million average active monthly users for the quarter, up from 316 million over the previous quarter, analysts had been expecting more.
Twitter’s turnaround is going to be a long slog, Enderle said, in large part because the company was not established with profits in mind.
"The odds of successfully retrofitting a profit mechanism to a product like Twitter that was never designed for one, will be difficult and the odds of success are low," he said.
Nevertheless Dorsey is giving it his best shot.