Twitter reported the resignation of its chief operating officer Thursday, as the trendy social networking service continued to wrestle with slowing user growth.
Ali Rowghani's move comes amid a broader reorganization at the company, which has seen other top executives leave and its stock price plunge in recent months. Twitter has reported strong growth in advertising sales, but analysts say investors are worried because it's not adding new users as fast as Facebook and other popular social media.
Twitter "is just not for everyone," said Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research, adding that the company may have raised unrealistic expectations for its appeal across the broad spectrum of Internet users.
Rowghani's departure marks a stark contrast from a few months ago, when the 41-year-old was dubbed "Mr. Fix-It" in a glowing Wall Street Journal profile that described him as almost a "co-CEO" to Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo. Rowghani was chief financial officer at Pixar for nine years before joining Twitter in the same role four years ago, and he was credited with steering Twitter through a successful initial public stock offering last fall.
But as chief operating officer, Rowghani was also responsible for overseeing new products and confronting Twitter's slowing growth rate. The company had 200 million monthly active users at the end of 2012 and gained about 40 million more in 2013, despite Costolo's reported goal of hitting 400 million by the end of last year.
Twitter now has about 255 million monthly active users; Facebook has almost five times that many with 1.28 billion users around the world.
The company had little to say about Rowghani's departure Thursday, except for a terse regulatory filing that said he resigned as chief operating officer and would not be replaced. The filing said Rowghani will act as an adviser to Costolo, which the company has said about other departed executives. But in a post to his personal Twitter account, Rowghani indicated he is leaving.
"Goodbye Twitter. It's been an amazing ride, and I will cherish the memories," he wrote.
Costolo replied by tweeting: "Thank you for being an incredible executive & partner. Twitter could not have succeeded without you."
Despite the warm exchange, there were hints of discord before Thursday. After Twitter hired a veteran Google executive, Daniel Graf, as chief product officer in April, Costolo decided Graf should report directly to him. The previous product chief, Michael Sippey, had reported to Rowghani before he left the company in January. Christopher Fry, the company's longtime head of engineering, left in May. (continued...)
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