Mike Isaac

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Bilton Book: Twitter’s Dick Costolo Was Fired (And Rehired) in 2010

Twitter’s founding tale keeps getting more and more complicated.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was briefly fired from the company by an adviser to the board in 2010, according to a new book detailing the early, tumultuous days of the microblogging service. The news was unearthed in an article from USA Today on Saturday evening.

The firing came during a trying period for the company, according to the book “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal,” written by New York Times columnist and reporter Nick Bilton. The board was unsatisfied with the performance of then-CEO Evan Williams, a fact that co-founder Jack Dorsey used to leverage the board into finding a new candidate for the company’s chief executive.

As discussions with Williams were coming to a head during a particularly tense meeting in 2010, Twitter board adviser and legendary Silicon Valley figure Bill Campbell decided that Costolo — who was then the company’s chief operating officer — should be fired. The rationale, sources said, was that Williams felt Costolo’s presence at the company could complicate the search for a new CEO candidate.

According to the book, Campbell “slapped his hand down on the boardroom table,” walked downstairs into Costolo’s office and fired him on the spot. Costolo, who first thought Campbell was joking, was told to send an email to Twitter’s lawyers to negotiate the terms of his severance package.

Twitter declined to comment on the story.

The board quickly reversed its decision shortly after Costolo sent an email asking about the terms of his departure. According to sources familiar with the matter, Costolo’s termination was a temporary lapse in the board’s judgement, and Costolo never actually stopped working for the company. By early October, Costolo was named CEO of the company.

But the episode further underscores the serious dysfunction that existed inside of the company at its highest levels, even as Twitter continued to grow at a rapid clip, pervading the fabric of the Internet and media pop culture. It is an image of a company in crisis, one that the Twitter of today desperately wants to escape as it slowly makes its way toward an initial public offering.

The mishap is not an isolated one in Twitter history. Among other embarrassing details, Bilton’s book describes squabbles and betrayal between Dorsey and Williams, and the early expulsion of little-known Twitter co-founder Noah Glass.

The book — in all its gory detail — will hit store shelves on Nov. 5.

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