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Twitter's exiting CEO says successor needs to be resilient, self-aware

At Bloomberg's tech conference, Dick Costolo discusses his future, which doesn't include returning to standup comedy. He also avoids naming names in regard to a possible replacement.

Departing Twitter CEO Dick Costolo says his successor should have some "leeway" in running the microblogging site. James Martin/CNET

Soon-to-be-former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said he's uncertain about what he's going to do next and that the company is definitely in an active search for his replacement.

Costolo discussed his future during the Bloomberg Tech Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. Less than a week ago, he announced he was stepping aside, after months of speculation and after Twitter had repeatedly disappointed Wall Street investors with its financial performance.

Costolo said the company's next chief should be resilient and self-aware and that he or she should have the "leeway" to do whatever needs doing -- downplaying the notion that his replacement should be only a technical and product leader.

"We tend to create these mythologies about great CEOs," he said, "and the problem with those is they sort of get boiled down to this almost comic book notion of what that person was like."

Last Thursday, Costolo said he would step down as CEO but remain on Twitter's board, a move that comes after he failed to expand Twitter's appeal beyond the hipsters, geeks and newshounds who've comprised much of the microblogging site's user base since it went public in 2013. Twitter chairman and co-founder Jack Dorsey will become interim CEO on July 1, as the company searches for a permanent replacement. Dorsey was Twitter's CEO from 2006 to 2008, when he was ousted.

Speculation is already rampant about possible replacements, including Twitter CFO Anthony Noto; Adam Bain, the company's president of global revenue; and even Dorsey, who's still serving as chief executive of Square, the mobile-payments company he also founded.

"I'm not going to talk about whether people are or aren't CEO candidates," Costolo said Tuesday.

Investors had been calling for Costolo to step down as the social-media giant struggles to deliver sustainable growth and sales. Costolo, CEO since 2010, announced his departure about a week after major Twitter investor Chris Sacca penned an 8,500-word blog post about what Twitter's been doing right and wrong. Sacca said the company has been improving but has so far " failed to tell its own story."

Costolo said Tuesday he didn't take Sacca's comments personally.

"Everything that we do is in the spotlight. People have opinions about it," Costolo said. "They want it to be more like this, or more like that. But that's a great thing."

Costolo reiterated his plans to remain on Twitter's board of directors indefinitely. He mentioned he was pleased about how Twitter is executing its long-term strategy and that it has new products rolling out this fall that he's "over the moon about and can't wait for people to see."

Twitter announced Tuesday that it will start automatically playing videos and GIFs, a move that could help attract more advertising dollars.

As for what's next career-wise, Costolo, who performed at various comedy festivals after college, said he plans to take some time off and that he won't be returning to stand-up.

"I don't think it would be a smart move for me to return to stand-up comedy," he said. "The beauty of the (Twitter) platform is I don't have to do that anymore. I can be heckled in real time, anywhere around the world."