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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Tesla said to be hunting top new talent

Although a COO for the firm not a target amid questions about chief executive Elon Musk’s well being

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is struggling with exhaustion. A company number two would likely ease the strain. AFP
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is struggling with exhaustion. A company number two would likely ease the strain. AFP

Tesla’s board of directors is on the lookout for senior talent - although it’s not actively searching for a chief operating officer, a person familiar with the board’s thinking said late Friday.

Questions have arisen about chief executive Elon Musk’s well being, judgement and ability to juggle multiple companies in the wake of his August 7 tweet that he was “considering taking the company private at $420 a share. Funding secured”.

In an interview with the New York Times, a tearful Musk admitted to being sleep deprived and under enormous stress, adding that that no one had seen or reviewed the tweet before he posted it while driving himself to the airport. Tesla shares plunged 8.9 per cent Friday, the largest move in two years.

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But while Tesla is always on the lookout for senior talent, no official search for a COO is currently underway, said the person familiar with the board’s thinking. And despite the furore of the past two weeks, efforts to attract additional talent have not changed or intensified since the tweet, the person said. The New York Times had reported that a search for a COO was underway.

At SpaceX, Mr Musk’s closely-held rocket company, Gwynne Shotwell is the company’s president, chief operating officer and director. But Tesla has operated for years without a COO, and no other executive serves on the nine-member board of directors.

In May 2016 - when Mr Musk announced bold plans to accelerate the timeline for Model 3 production - Barclays analyst Brian Johnson asked him if he would consider hiring a COO. Mr Musk demurred, and said that his focus was on technology, design and manufacturing while Jon McNeill was handling sales, service, and customer financing. McNeill left Tesla in February and is now the COO at Lyft.

The company has been at pains to broaden its management ranks in recent weeks. Last month, Tesla hired Dave Morton, the former chief financial officer of computer-drive maker Seagate Technology, as chief accounting officer.

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