Twilio CEO Lawson steps down after bruising activist battles

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

Joan Cros Garcia/Corbis | Corbis News | Getty Images

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

In a regulatory filing announcing the move, the company also said that Twilio expected fourth quarter revenue and income to come in above its prior guidance.

Shares of Twilio are up about 6.4% on the news.

“The time has come for me to pass 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 assume the top role, effective Monday. Shipchandler will also take a board seat.

Lawson will also step down from Twilio’s board, where he had served as chairman. Jeff Epstein, a current board member and partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, will take the lead seat.

“I am honored to step into the CEO role,” Shipchandler said in a release. He also suggested that the company would take a harder look at “underperforming” businesses, in line with what activists have been agitating for.

Still, the move is not likely to stave off the activists at Anson Funds and Legion Partners. Both are pushing for the company to sell itself or completely divest its data & applications business, CNBC previously reported.

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

“As we’ve 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 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, people previously told CNBC, and amassed a fresh stake at Anson Funds when he joined the activist fund that fall.

“That said, we believe that more actions are needed to maximize value for shareholders. We look forward to continuing to engage with Twilio’s Board and management team going forward,” he added.

Shipchandler’s appointment comes after the company cut a further 5% of employees in layoffs that focused on the company’s data and applications business. Still, a person close to Legion Partners told CNBC at the time that further changes were needed.

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

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


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