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Elon Musk's Tesla tumbles as two execs announce exit

Sep 07 2018 18:34

New York - Shares of Tesla Motors tumbled Friday as a pair of executive departures raised fresh concerns for the electric automaker already in turmoil over the erratic behavior of its mercurial chief executive Elon Musk.

Tesla shares sank 7% to $26.34 (about R400) in mid-morning trading after chief accounting officer Dave Morton announced his exit after only a month on the job, citing the company's frenetic pace.

Separately, human resources chief Gabrielle Toledano told Bloomberg she planned to exit the company, not returning from a leave of absence.

Morton's departure further roiled the company which has been under heightened scrutiny since Musk's chaotic announcement on August 7 on Twitter that he was considering taking Tesla private, a plan that was reversed two weeks later.

The ill-fated effort has prompted a US securities investigation and a class-action lawsuit alleging Musk was trying to punish investors who bet against the company.

Morton's brief tenure with the company coincided with the aborted go-private push.

"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 a securities filing.

"As a result, 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."

Turning heads in podcast 

Musk, meanwhile, turned heads with a more than two hour podcast interview with comedian Joe Rogan in which he drank whiskey and appeared to try a marijuana-and-tobacco cigarette proffered by the comedian as he mused about artificial intelligence and colonising space.

At one point, Musk described the constant barrage of ideas in his mind as being "like a 'never-ending explosion'," and said he wondered as a young boy whether he might be insane because it didn't seem to happen to other people.

The appearance was the latest unorthodox move by Musk, who has often surprised investors with brash and unpredictable behavior as Tesla has sought to live up to lofty manufacturing targets for its Model 3 electric car.

Long a polarising figure because of his swashbuckling style, Musk's champions see him as an entrepreneurial genius with the potential to remake the transportation system, while his detractors see him as an egotistical blowhard whose outsized promises have driven unjustified gains in the company's values.

Especially bizarre moments involving the Tesla chief of late include disparaging remarks about a Briton who helped save boys trapped in a cave in Thailand and the abrupt shutdown of Wall Street analyst questions during a contentious earnings conference call this spring.

In August, Musk told the New York Times he was exhausted from too much work and difficulty sleeping in an interview that sharpened questions about his mental stability. Some observers have said Tesla could be helped with a strong number-two executives, but Friday's departures create additional gaps in Tesla's ranks.

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tesla  |  elon musk
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