CEO Twilio Lawson resigns after bruises battle activists

Jeff Lawson, founder, CEO and chairman of Twilio, speaks at a press conference during Mobile World Congress on March 1, 2017 in Barcelona, ​​Spain

Joan Cros Garcia/Corbis | Corbis News | Getty Images

Twilio Co-founder Jeff Lawson said Monday he is stepping down as CEO of the enterprise communications software company. The move comes as Twilio grapples with two activist investors pushing for significant changes.

In a regulatory filing announcing the move, the company also said that Twilio expects revenue and earnings in the fourth quarter to exceed its previous expectations.

Twilio shares closed up around 7% on Monday after the news.

“The time has come for me to hand over the reins of this extraordinary company to a new CEO to lead Twilio through its next chapter,” Lawson said in a blog post announcing the change.

Khozema Shipchandler, a longtime Twilio executive, will take the top role starting Monday. The shipchandler also takes a seat on deck.

Lawson will also step down from Twilio’s board of directors, where he served as chairman. Jeff Epstein, a current board member and operating partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, will assume the executive chair.

“I am honored to step into the role of CEO,” Shipchandler said in a release. He also suggested that the company should take a closer look at “underperforming” businesses, in line with what campaigners have campaigned for.

Still, the move is unlikely to deter activists from Anson Funds and Legion Partners. Both are pushing for the company to sell or divest its data and apps business entirely, CNBC previously reported.

Twilio is working with bankers at Qatalyst Partners to fend off those activists, CNBC reported in December.

“As we have previously discussed with Twilio’s board of directors, we believe founder Jeff Lawson’s departure from the company would be a step in the right direction and we are pleased with the leadership change announced today,” said Anson Funds portfolio manager Sagar Gupta.

Gupta helped build Legion Partners’ stake in Twilio in 2023, the people previously told CNBC, and amassed a new stake in Anson Funds when it joined the activist fund that failed.

“However, we believe more action is needed to maximize shareholder value. We look forward to continuing to work with Twilio’s board and management team,” he added.

Shipchandler’s appointment comes as the company cuts staff in several rounds of restructuring. As part of the latest restructuring focused on corporate data and business applications, 5% of employees were laid off. Still, a person familiar with Legion Partner’s thinking told CNBC at the time that more fundamental changes were needed to get the company back on track.

Shipchandler served as Twilio’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer before taking over the company’s key communications division as part of a corporate restructuring. He joined Twilio in 2018.

Legion Partners did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

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