Tesla CAO Dave Morton quit after concluding Musk wasn’t listening

Finance


Tesla‘s now former chief accounting officer, Dave Morton, quit the company after concluding CEO Elon Musk wasn’t interested in accounting details around a potential take-private transaction, according to people familiar with the matter.

Morton resigned Sept. 4, according to a company filing released on Friday. Morton said in the filing “the level of public attention placed on the company, as well as the pace within the company, have exceeded my expectations.”

Morton joined Tesla on Aug. 6 after Tesla approached him for the chief accounting job. Morton saw an opportunity to work with a visionary such as Musk and make life easier for him by helping with some of the necessary housekeeping, according to people familiar with Morton’s thinking.

The day after he started, Musk tweeted he was considering taking the company private with “funding secured.” Morton, who left his role as Seagate‘s CFO to join Tesla, was not flustered by the tweet and met with Musk to go over various details that would make a take-private difficult. He brought up specific details such as equity change of control provisions and potential step-ups in the value of Tesla’s debt associated with a new controlling shareholder.

Musk and other executives didn’t seem to care about the various financial obstacles, which concerned Morton, said the people. When Morton offered advice about capitalizing the company through other means rather than going private, he was ignored, said the people.

After two weeks or so at the company, Morton concluded he wasn’t being heard or understood. He then started to think about leaving, one of the people said. The Securities and Exchange Commission reportedly served Tesla with a subpoena on Aug. 15 about Musk’s intentions. Musk eventually abandoned his plan to go private on Aug. 25 after CNBC reported Morgan Stanley was planning to be retained to seek financing for a transaction, suggesting funding for a deal hadn’t been secured.

Morton joined the company as chief accounting officer with the expectation he would eventually take over for Deepak Ahuja as CFO, the person said. Ahuja returned to the CFO position in 2017 after retiring in 2015.

A person familiar with the circumstances around Morton’s departure said that he did not bring any of these concerns up to Tesla at any time, including in his exit interview.

“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,” Morton wrote in his statement today.

Morton is the latest in a wave of execs who have recently left or announced they would leave the company, including engineering leader Doug Field and communications chief Sarah O’Brien. Also on Thursday, Bloomberg reported that HR chief Gaby Toledano, currently on leave, would not be returning to the company.

Tesla declined to comment beyond the official filing. Morton couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.



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