What should happen if a major tech company is taken over by an unreliable CEO? “Say it’s a person who is unpredictable,” says John Kwoka, the Neal F. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of Economics at Northeastern. “Someone who may be smarter than others but doesn’t view his mandate as limited to the sort of things that serious business people do.” Someone like Elon Musk, for example?
Kwoka nods and says, “We’ve watched with some alarm how a person can take over a $50 billion business, treat it as a toy, firing two-thirds of the employees and turning it into something altogether different without needing to care very much because he’s worth half a trillion dollars.” Kwoka is referring to Musk’s controversial $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, which has lost more than half of its advertising revenue amid a rebrand to its new name, X.
“It’s the sort of thing that is now possible,” Kwoka says of the wide range of issues posed by tech behemoths — including multinationals like Apple, Alphabet/Google and Meta/Facebook — that have taken on unprecedented influence with relatively little public oversight. “And that’s a concern.” Kwoka has focused his academic life on issues of mergers and antitrust. For more than four decades he argued that American competitiveness and U.S. workers were suffering as power was consolidated among a smaller number of companies that had been permitted to grow ever larger.