Investor's Corner

Tesla isn’t “losing” all of its executives — it just has a ton

Over the past week, you’ve probably heard reports of Tesla “losing” executives, and while the reports are correct, the narrative is wrong. As Musk pushes the Model 3 production ramp forward, he’s also aiming to bring the company to profitability in the second half of the year. Shedding unnecessary positions on the executive level certainly seems to be part of this plan.

But with reports of “executives” leaving Tesla surfacing what feels like, everyday, it seems like the company is spiraling out of control. This is fundamentally incorrect because the media is highlighting any “senior” departure as a major loss and isn’t providing context to Tesla’s broader management structure.

First, reports of “key” people leaving Tesla now range from Vice Presidents, Product Directors, Managers, and Directors. But how are we determining people to be key? Bloomberg’s Dana Hull reported that Bob Rudd and Arch Padmanabhan left the company. Rudd and Padmanabhan’s positions were Senior Director and Director respectively. Padmanabhan had been at Tesla for 5 years, while Rudd joined SolarCity in 2012 at VP of Project Development for Energy Storage & Microgrids.

It’s unclear why Rudd and Padmanabhan have left the company, but it could be part of Musk’s broader company reorganization. On Monday, Musk sent out a memo to employees telling them, “To ensure that Tesla is well prepared for the future, we have been undertaking a thorough reorganization of our company.”

In addition to the company’s overall structure, Musk is aiming to rid a significant number of contract workers at the company. During Tesla’s Q1 2018 earnings call, Musk referred to contractors as “barnacles” stating that, “…we’re going to scrub the barnacles on that front.”

“It’s pretty crazy. We’ve got barnacles on barnacles. So there’s going to be a lot of barnacle removal.”

I could list dozens of executive departures at Tesla that were not previously reported in the past year, all senior to both Rudd and Padmanabhan, but I think it’s more important to provide perspective on the number of executives Tesla actually employs. After an in-depth analysis of LinkedIn data, I have found 23 active Vice Presidents at Tesla. There were far too many Directors and Senior Directors to conduct an accurate analysis.

Since the beginning of 2017, Tesla has lost 9 VPs and 3 other major executives (CAO, CFO, and President). Of the executives that left, their average tenure was 3.9 years — nearly a third less than existing VPs. Comparably, the VPs that are currently employed by Tesla hold an average tenure of 4.8 years.

Of the executives that have left since the start of 2017, only 4 had stayed at the company longer than 3 years, suggesting that their departures could have been related to culture clash (Chris Lattner) or a stepping stone to a C-Suite position at another company (Jon McNeill, Diarmuid O’Connell).

While it isn’t clear how exactly Tesla will be “restructured,” you can be certain that nearly all departures will be “high profile” as investors watch closely.

Full list of executives included in this analysis:

Active (23):

  • VP, Legal: Jonathan Chang
  • VP, Manufacturing: Gilbert Passin
  • VP, Materials Engineering: Charles Kuehmann
  • VP, Sales: John Walker
  • VP, Communications: Sarah O’Brien
  • VP, Gigafactory Operations and EPC: Kevin Kassekert
  • VP, Treasurer: Ron Klein
  • VP, Automation, Equipment and MES Engineering: Pablo Gonzalez
  • VP, Global Supply Chain: Sascha Zahnd
  • VP, Worldwide Service and Customer Experience: Karim Bousta
  • VP, Technology:  Drew Baglino
  • VP, Legal: Phil Rothenberg
  • VP, Engineering: Steve MacManus
  • VP of Engineering: Nick Kalayjian
  • VP of Engineering: Dr. Michael Schwekutsch
  • VP, Technology and Engineering: Nagesh Saldi
  • VP, Asia Pacific: Robin Ren
  • VP, US Energy Sales: Bryan Ellis
  • VP, Global Recruiting: Cindy Nicola
  • VP, Environment, Health, and Wellness: Laurie Shelby
  • VP, Worldwide Finance and Operations: Justin McAnear
  • VP: Ganesh Srivats
  • VP, Production: Peter Hochholdinger
  • VP, Gigafactory 1: Jens Peter Clausen
  • VP, Trucks and Programs: Jerome Guillen
  • VP, Powertrain Hardware Engineering: Jim Dunlay
  • VP, Global Supply Management at Tesla Motors: Liam O’Connor
  • VP of Vehicle Software, Services, and Diagnostics: David Lau
  • VP of Energy Sales and Operations: Cal Lankton
  • VP, Product Marketing: Elliott Summers

Executive Departures from 2017-current (8 VPs, 3 other Major Execs) :

  • VP, Finance and Corporate Treasurer: Susan Repo
  • VP, Investor Relations: Jeff Evanson
  • VP, Talent Acquisition & Analytics: Raj Dev
  • President, Global Sales, Marketing, Delivery, and Service: Jon McNeill
  • VP, Autopilot Hardware Engineering: Jim Keller
  • CFO, Jason Wheeler
  • CAO, Eric Branderiz
  • VP, Autopilot: Chris Lattner
  • VP, HR: Arnnon Geshuri
  • VP, HR: Mark Lipscomb
  • VP, Autopilot Vision David Nister

Disclaimer: This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Teslarati and its owners. Christian Prenzler does not have a position in Tesla Inc. or any of its competitors and does not have plans to do so in the next 30 days.

Tesla isn’t “losing” all of its executives — it just has a ton
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