Tesla stock experienced a significant drop on Monday, leaving investors puzzled about the unexpected management turnover within the company. Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn, who also held the title of Master of Coin, has decided to step down after 13 years at Tesla, with the last four spent as CFO. While the exact reason for his departure remains unknown, it is noteworthy that Chief Accounting Officer Vaibhav Taneja has already assumed the responsibilities, effective as of Friday, August 4th. Kirkhorn will continue to support the transition until the end of the year.
In a LinkedIn post, Kirkhorn expressed his deep appreciation for his time at Tesla: “Being a part of this company is a special experience, and I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve accomplished together since I joined over 13 years ago.” He also voiced his gratitude towards CEO Elon Musk for his admirable leadership and unwavering optimism, which have inspired countless individuals.
Kirkhorn’s departure comes as a surprise, as he garnered significant respect from the investment community. There were even speculations that he may have assumed an expanded role in the future if Musk were to take on less responsibility within the company.
As a result of these developments, Tesla stock closed at $251.45 on Monday, experiencing a 1% decrease. On the other hand, the S&P 500 saw a 0.9% increase, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.6%. This drop in Tesla’s stock value resulted in a staggering $7 billion reduction in the company’s market capitalization.
Gary Black, co-founder of the Future Fund Active exchange-traded fund (FFND), found the timing of Kirkhorn’s resignation to be particularly peculiar. “The oddest aspect of Zach’s resignation is the timing…most amicable resignations where a top exec has been at a firm for 10-plus years have a transition period,” Black noted. He speculated that Kirkhorn may have been contemplating leaving, and Musk may not have taken the news well. However, Black added, “Doubt it’s the upcoming cage match.”
Musk and Zuckerberg’s Potential MMA Match
Tesla, the unique company led by Elon Musk, has become a topic of discussion among shareholders in regards to both mixed martial arts (MMA) and management changes. With Musk also at the helm of other notable companies such as X (formerly known as Twitter) and SpaceX, his diverse interests have made investors crave stability within Tesla’s management team. However, stability has not always been easy to come by.
From 2008 to 2015, Deepak Ahuja held the position of CFO before passing the torch to Jason Wheeler. Unfortunately, Wheeler’s tenure only lasted 14 months before Ahuja returned to take over again. Ahuja then served until early 2019 when he was succeeded by Kirkhon. Following this trend of turnover, the role of Chief Accounting Officer saw Taneja taking the reins in early 2019, replacing Dave Morton who had stepped down after less than a month on the job. Morton cited the unexpected public attention associated with the role and expressed no grievances with Tesla’s leadership or financial reporting.
The latest management transition will undoubtedly draw attention from Wall Street analysts. Ben Kallo, an analyst at Baird, remains unfazed by the change, maintaining that Taneja’s six years of experience at Tesla speaks for itself. Kallo rates Tesla shares as a Buy with a price target of $300. Similarly, George Gianarikas, an analyst at Canaccord, rates the shares as Buy with a slightly lower price target of $293.
Gianarikas speculates that the immense magnitude of helping build the sustainability giant alongside Musk may have influenced Kirkhorn’s decision to depart from Tesla. As for the company’s stock performance, it has seen significant growth this year with a 104% increase year-to-date and a 48% surge over the past three months. However, it is important to note that shares are still down around 13% over the past 12 months.
In conclusion, the possibility of Musk and Zuckerberg facing off in an MMA match has sparked interest among enthusiasts and investors alike. While Tesla’s management stability has been a subject of concern, analysts remain optimistic about the company’s future prospects.