CFO Kirkhorn leaves Tesla
Zachery Kirkhorn has stepped down as Tesla’s Chief Financial Officer. Kirkhorn is leaving the company after 13 years, four of which he served as CFO, or ‘Master of the Coin’, as Tesla calls it. He will remain available to Tesla until the end of the year, although his successor has already been named.
Neither Kirkhorn nor the EV manufacturer gave a reason for the resignation. Tesla thanked Kirkhorn for his “significant contributions” in an announcement to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), saying that “Tesla has seen tremendous expansion and growth” during Kirkhorn’s tenure. CEO Elon Musk expressed his gratitude on social media, saying that “I would like to thank Zach Kirkhorn for his many contributions to Tesla over the course of 13 often difficult years,” and “13 years is a long tour of duty. Zach will spend time with friends & family, then do something else.”
Kirkhorn wrote on LinkedIn that “being a part of this company is a special experience and I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve done together since I joined over 13 years ago. As I shift my responsibilities to support this transition, I want to thank the talented, passionate, and hard-working employees at Tesla, who have accomplished things many thought not possible. I also want to thank Elon for his leadership and optimism, which has inspired so many people.”
Vaibhav Taneja, Tesla’s current Chief Accounting Officer, will assume the role of new CFO “in addition to his current role.” The 45-year-old has been Chief Accounting Officer since March 2019 and previously worked as a Corporate Controller at Tesla. Taneja worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in India and the US until 2016 before moving into finance and accounting at SolarCity, which Tesla later acquired.
Kirkhorn had good access to Elon Musk
Kirkhorn, as a long-time confidant of Elon Musk, had a unique role. He was one of the few top executives allowed to speak publicly about Tesla and its business development – or had to do so to some extent in his function as CFO. Whether Taneja will limit himself to his mandatory appearances as CFO or enjoy a similar status remains to be seen.
Kirkhorn not only spoke about Tesla on analyst calls after the annual reports, but often also gave strategy (and, unusually for a CFO) product presentations. Internally, Kirkhorn is also said to have belonged to the small circle of executives who “was able to be an effective liaison communicator between Elon and other executives …that would be a skill set that is hard to come by and very valuable but hard to quantify,” Thomas Martin, senior portfolio manager at Tesla investor Globalt Investments told Reuters.
The CFO change has not gone down well with the stock market and analysts, also because Kirkhorn was considered a candidate to possibly replace Musk in the long run. Reuters says Tesla shares fell as much as four per cent in Monday morning trading.
Though Kirkhorn did not say who his next employer will be, experts speculate that the 39-year-old will likely take on the role of CFO in another company.