Tesla erupts in chaos after chief accounting officer leaves, Elon Musk tokes up
The turmoil at Tesla Inc. reached a fever pitch Friday, as news emerged that two senior executives will leave Elon Musk’s electric-car maker a matter of hours after he smoked marijuana during an hours-long interview with a comedian.
Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton gave notice Tuesday that he was resigning less than a month into the job, according to a 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 CFO 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 percent to $252.25 as of 9:46 a.m. in New York, the steepest intraday drop since June 2016. The company’s 5.3 percent bonds plummeted 4 cents, their biggest-ever decline, to 81.75 cents on the dollar, a record 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, Morton walked away from a $10 million new-hire equity grant that would have vested over four years.
Musk, 47, sipped whiskey during a more than two and a half hour podcast with comedian Joe Rogan late Thursday that touched on everything from flame throwers and artificial intelligence to the end of the universe. While he said he was “not a regular smoker of weed,” he took a drag from what Rogan described as a joint containing tobacco mixed with marijuana, which is legal in California.
“It’s quite hard to run companies. Especially car companies,” Musk said. “It’s very difficult to keep a car company alive.”