Elon Musk versus Don Lemon — and Linda Yaccarino

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Sunday, March 17, 2024

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What a week for TV personality Don Lemon and also for X, the social media platform that Elon Musk acquired in October 2022, where he continues to make life, er, interesting for X CEO Linda Yaccarino.

To recap, Musk invited Lemon to his X platform soon after Lemon was fired from CNN last year, following some boneheaded comments Lemon made about Nikki Haley. Musk's pitch at the time was that X welcomes all voices and that its distribution is hard to beat. Ultimately, Lemon agreed to join forces with X and, according to the WSJ, he even attended a dinner organized by Yaccarino for marketers.

Lemon also invited Musk to be the first guest for his talk show debut, but the recent sit-down was not to Musk's liking. How do we know? For starters, the following day Musk sent a text to Lemon's agent, saying simply: "Contract is canceled." He has since called Lemon "dull" and "uninspiring."

You can catch that full interview for the first time tomorrow on YouTube and elsewhere. In the meantime, Lemon is appearing on as many shows as possible, portraying Musk as thin-skinned and anything but the free-speech advocate Musk claims to be. At the same time, the New York Post says it magically obtained a document that shows Lemon asked for the moon before bringing his show to X, including a $5 million upfront payment atop an $8 million salary; an equity stake in X; a free Tesla Cybertruck; and a private jet to Las Vegas. The Post's sources say other demands, too, included a string of executive assistants and a marketing budget of up to $15 million.

A spokesman for Lemon tells the Post there is "literally nothing" in that list of demands that is true. Lemon's lawyers separately tell the WSJ of whatever deal he struck with X that Lemon "expects to be paid for it" and that "if we have to go to court we will."

Likely, it will come to that, judging by the growing number of people — including former employees of Musk and X's landlord — who are currently suing Musk over money they say they are owed.

Of course, in the background of this back-and-forth — very, very far in the background — is Yaccarino.

A former NBCUniversal executive, Yaccarino — whose primary job is to convince big advertisers to return to the platform — is coming up on one year in the hot seat in June. That's already longer than most observers imagined she'd survive in her role with a company that's routinely in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. If she's sticking around because of her equity package, that could be worth far less than it once was. (In January, Fidelity marked down its own stake in X by 72%.)

If she's staying because of some kind of agreement, the obvious question is how much these really mean to Musk. — Connie Loizos

LinkedIn gets its game on

LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social platform, is getting into games, Ingrid Lunden learns. Long a stodgy business networking site that became far stickier during the pandemic as users embraced it to share more about themselves, LinkedIn is now taking things up another notch by “tapping into the same wave of puzzle-mania that helped simple games like Wordle find viral success and millions of players,” says Lunden. She reports on the three efforts it plans to roll out first.

LinkedIn gets its game on image

Image Credits: LinkedIn China via Weibo

SpaceX restricts employees from selling shares based on alleged "dishonesty"

You might think that longtime employees of Elon Musk’s SpaceX are sitting pretty, given the outfit's valuation reportedly reached a stratospheric $180 billion back in December — at least based on a secondary sale at the time. But Aria Alamalhodaei reports that SpaceX gives itself the right to ban past and present employees from participating in tender offers if they are deemed to have committed "an act of dishonesty against the company," a highly unusual condition, and one that isn't made crystal clear to employees, one tells TechCrunch.

SpaceX restricts employees from selling shares based on alleged "dishonesty" image

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Aaron Levie says Box is entering into its third era

Aaron Levie has always had a knack for seeing where the puck is going, says Ron Miller, and right now Levie’s company, Box, is embracing the software shift toward AI and workflow automation. Indeed, Levie talks with Miller about a small company that Box bought last year and that specializes in workflow automation and metadata management. Though little was made of the news at the time, it’s a “very big deal” for the future of Box, insists Levie. “The way to think about it is that for the first time ever within Box, you're going to be able to build no-code applications that let you render your content for any business process that you want.” More here.

Aaron Levie says Box is entering into its third era image

Image Credits: Bloomberg / Getty Images

Gumroad gets gummed up by payment processors

Gumroad, an e-commerce company for creators, has updated its rules to more strictly limit NSFW content, citing restrictions from payment processors like Stripe and PayPal. "Obviously, it sucks to do this,” Gumroad founder Sahil Lavingia tells TechCrunch’s Amanda Silberling. “We don't take it lightly that many creators rely on Gumroad for their livelihoods and have communicated that to our partners wherever and whenever we could," he says. "We've been around since 2011, and this isn't a new fight. It's ongoing."

Gumroad gets gummed up by payment processors image

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

What else we're reading

Reddit made changes to CEO Steve Huffman's pay shortly before reviving plans to go public, reports the FT. Specifically, it removed incentives tied to the company hitting a $25 billion valuation. Sven Riethmueller, a professor of law at Yale Law School who has researched executive pay amendments, suggests the change to Huffman's incentives should worry retail investors. "I would argue that Reddit's board did not create a compensation package to incentivize its CEO to grow stock value significantly post-IPO," he tells the FT.

In Cleveland, Ohio, mushrooms are digesting entire houses. It’s all by design, explains the BBC.

What else we're reading image

Image Credits: Songsak Paname/Eyem / Getty Images under a license.

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