Aug 25, 2015 ยท 6 minutes

When the recent drama at Twitter began in June, I felt badly for Dick Costolo.

Here was a man who -- by all accounts -- was the only one who brought enough order to this mess of a company to get it to an IPO. He increased the value by some 30x over his tenure.

His thanks? Getting completely thrown under the bus by one of the men his work made the richest, Chris Sacca, and more passive aggressively getting thrown under the bus by his former internal ally, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

But maybe Costolo isn’t the biggest victim of the junior high battle over a $16 billion-- and dropping! -- public company. Maybe the biggest victim is Adam Bain.

Costolo, after all, is departing the company entirely -- leaving the dysfunctional board and washing his hands of the situation. No one can take that 30x appreciation from him, and anyone who has seen this movie before (Hi, Yahoo shareholders and employees) knows a new CEO won’t magically be the fix. Especially because after watching what went down with Costolo, they’ll have less leash to make any of the kinds of innovative moves Twitter actually needs. Just check out the stock chart since Costolo left.

Costolo has a good shot of coming out of this like the prematurely ejected Jerry Yang who later vindicated himself with Alibaba’s monster IPO-- a deal he brought to Yahoo in the first place-- while his successors flamed out (Carol Bartz) and flamed out (Scott Thompson) and even one of the top superstars of Silicon Valley is not doing so hot at the job (Marissa Mayer.)  

He can sit back and shrug if it gets worse, because it has nothing to do with him. Yet another cautionary tale in why removing the CEO does little to fix a company with a fundamental product and user growth challenge.

Not so, poor Adam Bain, Twitter’s president of global revenue and partnerships. There he was minding his own business, inspiring employees and showing revenue growth despite stalled users when a mack truck of uncertainty and chaos hit the company this summer. And Bain is stuck in the middle as the egos of founders and early investors are treating Twitter itself like an emotional chew toy.

He’s one of the only two internal candidates in contention for the CEO position -- and the only one who is willing to actually do the job full time. But he’s criticized as a candidate because he isn’t a product guy, has  never been a CEO, and can’t compete with the star power-- or sharp elbows-- of Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey, the part-time and interim candidate for the job.

As Twitter’s board takes their sweet time making a decision, Bain is left twisting in the wind. If he gets the job, it’ll be thankless. He’ll have way less leash that Costolo did or a founder like Dorsey would to make substantial changes. Sure, Bain has grown Twitter’s revenues from $28.3 million in 2010 to more than $1.4 billion in 2014, set to surpass $2 billion this year. But Costolo accomplished more than that and early investor Chris Sacca and others still turned on him. Twitter has become a culture of “what have you done for me right this second and how does your existence fit with my own personal agenda?”

And the stock has collapsed since Costolo left, making the frenzy around the company that much greater. It is hard to imagine it going well, and it’ll be thankless, with Bain hung out to dry the way Costolo was. That’s if he “wins.”

It gets worse. If Bain doesn’t get the job, he can’t go anywhere. As the person holding the business side of Twitter together, he can’t sell shares or quit, without creating a far bigger internal and external panic. He’ll have little choice but to suck it up and work for a part-time CEO, possibly even promoted to the position of "COO who does all the actual day-to-day CEO work." All the work, none of the glory in a job that’s still going to be monumentally hard. You could argue he’s even more set up for failure and frustration.

And that’s a shame because, according to at least some journalists who have profiled him -- and as a trending Twitter hashtag will remind you -- “#AdamBainIsSoNice.”  Last week, USA Today published a glowing article about the beloved Bain and his enviable connections throughout the marketing world.

From the article:

He's so well-liked inside Twitter headquarters that the hashtag #AdamBainIsSoNice recently trended on the social media service.

Bain, the company's president of global revenue and partnerships, is just as popular in the worlds of advertising, media, sports and entertainment, where he has connections that are the envy of the tech industry.

"He's like Sara Lee. Nobody doesn't like Adam Bain," said Michael Kassan, founder and CEO of advisory firm MediaLink, which acts as a consultant to many tech companies including Twitter. 

The USA Today profile spoke to many current and former Bain employers and employees and painted a glowing picture. It was widely seen as a plant from someone internal who wants Bain-- a man who can actually commit to the job-- to win, since Twitter’s board doesn’t seem to be seriously considering names from outside the dysfunctional founding duo of Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey and their dual enabler Sacca.

He certainly has a lot of loyalty in the company -- although so does Dorsey, it should be noted. In particular, the USA Today story made clear how much of a stabilizing force Bain has been:

People close to him say he's laser focused on building culture inside Twitter and it has paid off. His team has some of the lowest churn in the company and his management team has been stable for five years. He has recruited executives from Google, YouTube and Facebook, even some CEOs, including Nathan Hubbard from Ticketmaster...

"He inspires people. He makes people be willing to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He makes them willing to take risks," says Hollywood producer Peter Guber, the onetime CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment and co-owner of the Golden State Warriors, who is a mentor to Bain. "They don't feel like they are being punished. They feel like they are being rewarded for it."

And later:

Narasimhan says Bain is one of those rare pied-piper executives. Not only did Bain talk Narasimhan into selling his company to Fox, Bain then talked him into joining Twitter in 2011 even though Narasimhan had promised his wife to take a year off and stay in Los Angeles.

"That's the kind of loyalty Adam inspires," Narasimhan says. "There are few people I would lie down in traffic for. Adam is one of them."

If Bain were to leave, Twitter’s business arm-- comparatively the stronger part of the company-- would just fall apart. He can’t move. Can’t sell stock. Has to sit and watch it fall. And one way or another he’s likely to get a way more thankless job pretty soon.

Poor Adam Bain. He’s starting to make Dick Costolo’s life look pretty sweet.