Tesla erupts in chaos after senior execs leave
Shares and bonds plunge on loss of accounting, HR chiefs.
The turmoil at Tesla reached a fever pitch, as the news that two senior executives are leaving Elon Musk‘s electric-car maker emerged just hours after he smoked marijuana during an hours-long interview streamed live online.
Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton gave notice Tuesday that he was resigning less than a month into the job, according to a Friday filing. Tesla’s stock plunged, then extended declines after Gabrielle Toledano, the head of human resources who’s been on a leave of absence, told Bloomberg News that she won’t rejoin the company.
Morton, a former chief financial officer for computer-drive maker Seagate Technology Plc, joined Tesla one day before Musk tweeted that he was considering buying out some investors at $420 a share and taking the company private. The CEO abandoned that effort 17 days later, and in the process drew a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission and a series of lawsuits alleging market manipulation.
“Since I joined Tesla on August 6th, the level of public attention placed on the company, as well as the pace within the company, have exceeded my expectations,” Morton said in the filing. “This caused me to reconsider my future. I want to be clear that I believe strongly in Tesla, its mission, and its future prospects, and I have no disagreements with Tesla’s leadership or its financial reporting.”
Tesla shares fell as much as 10%, the steepest intraday drop since June 2016, and were down 4.9% to $267.28 as of 11:10 a.m. in New York. The company’s 5.3% bonds declined as much as 4 cents to 81.75 cents on the dollar, a new low, according to Trace bond price data.
Tesla has long struggled with high turnover among its senior executive ranks, and its finance team in particular has gone through significant tumult lately. In the first quarter of this year, the company lost Morton’s predecessor, Eric Branderiz, and Susan Repo, who was treasurer and vice president of finance. CFO Deepak Ahuja retired in 2015, only to return in 2017 after his successor, Jason Wheeler, quit after just 15 months.
By leaving the accounting chief job, Morton walked away from a $10 million new-hire equity grant that would have vested over four years. Friday was also slated to be the last day for Sarah O’Brien, Tesla’s vice president of communications, whose departure was announced last month…