Snapchat is known for its disappearing messages, allowing teenagers to post photos and videos that vanish within 24 hours as if they never existed.

While the service may have helped the app become wildly popular among teenagers looking to casually message each other, these days it's starting to look like Snapchat's executives are becoming as ephemeral as its messages.

On Tuesday, Snapchat announced that Tim Stone, chief financial officer, would leave the
business after just eight months.

The departure of a CFO is a blow to any business, but it follows a procession of 15 departing executives in less than two years.


The business has lost two chief financial officers, three vice presidents of hardware, its head of strategy and its head of product, among others, since March 2017.

For Wall Street analysts and investors, the executive churn at Snapchat is causing concern - and questions over the leadership of co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy.

The company's stock price dropped 11 per cent following the news of Stone's departure.

"It is troubling for us to see continued turnover at senior positions with some being as short as two months," analysts at Jefferies wrote in a note published last night.

Kristin Southey, Snapchat's head of investor relations, recently left after just a few months.

She was introduced as the new vice president of investor relations in the business' third quarter earnings call in August last year and was gone by November.

Despite the ongoing churn of Snapchat executives, Snapchat's 28-year-old chief executive Spiegel sought to play down concerns.

In a letter to employees on Tuesday he said the departure of Stone "is not related to any disagreement with us on any matter relating to our accounting strategy, management, operation, policies, regulatory matters, or practices (financial or otherwise)".


The message was clear: We haven't fallen out with Stone. Yet his departure after just eight months inside Snapchat has highlighted the grip that the co-founders have on the company.

Together, Spiegel and Murphy control 88.5 per cent of the voting power.

The two men control every major decision thanks to the way the stock is structured.

By comparison, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg controls a relatively meagre 60 per cent of Facebook's voting shares.

The two have managed to keep this grip, through a Byzantine triple-class share structure. Snapchat's public shareholders have no voting rights, and the limited voting rights handed to early investors and staff are dwarfed by Spiegel and Murphy's "Class C" shares, which carry 10 votes each.

This control continues even if one of the two were fired, and if one of them were to die, their voting rights would be handed over to the other.

Snapchat wrote in its initial stock market filing that "to our knowledge, no other company has completed an initial public offering of non-voting stock on a US stock exchange".

Despite its highly unusual stock structure, Snapchat's IPO in March 2017 was heralded as a great success, with its shares initially selling for US$17 ($25) and rising by 44 per cent in the first day of trading.

However, the price has since plummeted and never recovered.

Investors have balked at repeated drops in the number of people using Snapchat.

It has suffered successive declines in popularity, with user number dropping to 186m in the last quarterly earnings update in October.

Snapchat's revenue, however, has beaten analyst expectations.

A controversial redesign of the Snapchat app is likely to have played a role in the app's decline in users.

More than 1m people signed a petition calling on the business to reverse the redesign and restore the old version of the app.

Spiegel later called the redesign of his app rushed, raising questions as to how the redesign was ever allowed to have taken place.

To understand how a rushed redesign of Snapchat's app happened, it helps to understand what it's like to work there.

Pivotal analyst Brian Wieser, said yesterday: "It is a company that is the creature of an individual, and that can have certain downsides. It's going to live and die by Evan Spiegel."

Former employees agree.

"At Snapchat, it was basically like, 'we'll hand you down what we can't really be bothered to do', so what you end up with is a very boring and unfulfilling workload," said one former Snapchat employee in the UK who wished to remain anonymous.

An anonymous source told Wired last year that working at Snapchat is like "swimming in a shark tank".

Snapchat disputes this depiction, with its UK general manager Ed Couchman saying: "I couldn't be prouder of our kind, smart and creative team in the UK."

In November 2017, a departing Snapchat software engineer named Shannon Lubetich sent a farewell email to the company's engineering department in which she accused Snapchat of having a "toxic" and "sexist" culture.

Snapchat has said that it continues to make progress on its culture.

The business has also been plagued with leaks to journalists of its plans and of confidential data on how many people use the app.

Last year, Snapchat launched a crackdown, threatening staff with jail for disclosing any confidential information.

But analyst concerns over Snapchat's organisational structure could be at least partially dispelled on Feb 5 when the business announces its fourth-quarter earnings.

Snapchat said that it expects its revenue for the quarter to come in near the top end of its US$355m to US$380m estimate.

A strong revenue figure which beats analyst expectations will help to drive up Snapchat stock, but only if the business can also stop the decline in its user numbers.

For investors and analysts, the number of Snapchat users is the most important figure to be announced in February. If the company announces a third successive decline in users, then concerns over the worrying amount of executive departures at Snapchat will have been proven right.