"This is a big surprise to the Street."
Master of Coin
Zach Kirkhorn, longtime Tesla CFO and "Master of Coin," has left Tesla.
Kirkhorn's departure is no small deal for the Elon Musk-helmed EV venture. In his first year as CFO, Kirkhorn soundly guided the carmaker through the absolute dumpster fire of a mess that was Tesla's Model 3 production, and throughout his four-year tenure, oversaw record Tesla profits.
Kirkhorn, will stay on through the end of the year, per CNBC.
In a Monday LinkedIn post thanking Tesla employees, he added: "I also want to thank Elon for his leadership and optimism," he continued, "which has inspired so many people." Including, if anybody, himself.
A Particular Gift of Gab
Kirkhorn's greatest skill was his reported fluency in (and poise in the face of) erratic Muskian behavior.
As The Wall Street Journal reported back in May, Kirkhorn often acted as a middleman between Musk and other employees, with some alleging that the now-former CFO was really the person keeping Telsa afloat.
And now, as the carmaker faces a fresh slew of lawsuits, government inquiries, and miscellanious Musk-induced PR issues, the stability Kirkhorn supposedly provided the firm hangs precariously in the balance as well.
Tea Leaves Abound
To that end: There's certainly speculation around the nature of Kirkhorn's farewell. As noted in The Financial Times, Tesla's most recent earnings call — delivered to investors on Wall Street just three weeks ago — offered no indication that its CFO might be bidding the firm adieu. Maybe they were just keeping things under wraps, but the shift feels sudden nonetheless.
"It's a blow in the near term as Zach was a key part of this historic Tesla turnaround the last five years," Dan Ives, a tech analyst at the investment firm Wedbush Securities, told Fortune. "This is a big surprise to the Street."
To that end, it's not surprising to see folks online quickly draw comparisons to the surprise exit of Tesla's former AI head Andrej Karpathy, who very suddenly abandoned Tesla's embattled Autopilot division last year. And as The Wall Street Journal points out, Tesla actually has a long history of executive departures in the lead-up to a new product launch. With the forever-janky Cybertruck on the horizon (maybe, probably, we don't know), perhaps the Master of Coin finally just had enough.
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