Twitter Adds Former News Corp. President to Board

Twitter Inc. said former News Corp. President Peter Chernin is joining its board, portending stronger ties between the microblogging site and the media and entertainment industries.

San Francisco-based Twitter confirmed the appointment in a posting on its microblogging service yesterday. Chernin, who had about 150 Twitter “followers” around the time of the announcement -- when he made his first Twitter posting -- had more than 930 today.

Twitter is building relationships in television, film and publishing as it courts advertisers and boosts sales to a projected $1 billion in 2014. Aside from providing inroads to media and entertainment, Chernin could draw on his experience at a public company to help navigate Twitter toward an eventual initial public offering.

“We’re a technology company in the media business, and we have a board that deeply understands what it means to be a technology company,” Twitter Chief Executive Officer Dick Costolo told a group of reporters today at an event at University of Michigan. “We felt it was important to have that media business perspective on the board as well.”

After leaving News Corp., Chernin founded Chernin Group LLC, an entertainment group whose first film production was “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” Providence Equity Partners acquired a minority stake in the company earlier this year for $200 million. The executive, who also sits on the board of Pandora Media Inc., said last year that he had considered making an offer to buy Yahoo! Inc.

Global Ambitions

“I’ve been a long-time user of Twitter for news and information,” Chernin said in his first -- and so far, only -- Twitter posting. “Happy to be joining board of this very exciting company.”

The executive was also involved in the creation of Hulu LLC, the online video service founded in 2007 by News Corp. and NBC Universal, then owned by General Electric Co. His involvement reflects his strength at bridging technology and entertainment industries, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar said.

“Twitter is very fortunate to land Peter,” Kilar said in an e-mailed statement. “You are talking about an unusual leader that has built and grown a large number of media businesses that were predicated on breaking a mold, establishing a clear identity, and building enduring consumer and financial value.”

As Twitter expands advertising into new markets, including Latin America and Western Europe, Chernin’s experience helping run a global business will be useful, Costolo said.

International Reach

“We’re a fast-growing, global company now with offices around the world,” he said. “Peter brings years and significant global operating expertise to the board.”

Costolo said he’s treading gingerly when it comes to entering China -- home to the world’s largest Internet population -- because of its history of online censorship. The leadership change now underway in the country may create new opportunities for Twitter, Costolo said.

“Once the new government gets settled there, we can go to that government and talk to them, but we won’t compromise the way Twitter works in order to operate within a country,” he said.

Activity on the site has gained notoriety in the Middle East, where representatives of Israel and Hamas have used the tool to exchange threats and report attacks in real-time. Although threats of violence are against Twitter’s terms of service, the site has not received requests to take down messages related to recent attacks in the region, Costolo said.

“As far as I know, we haven’t had any requests to take down any of that content,” he said. “I’m not up to speed on the very, very latest, but as far as I know, we haven’t.”

Venture capitalists Fred Wilson and Bijan Sabet, as well as Flipboard Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mike McCue have stepped down from Twitter’s board in the past two years. Jack Dorsey, a Twitter co-founder and CEO of Square Inc., Peter Fenton of Benchmark Capital and Twitter CEO Dick Costolo remain on the board.

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