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Why Did Tesla CFO Quit? Musk Cites ‘Long Tour Of Duty,’ But 2 Analysts Have Their Own Theories

Tesla, Inc

Tesla, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) longtime CFO Zachary Kirkhorn, who went by the official designation of “Master of Coin” announced Monday his decision to leave after a 13-year stint at the company.

Tesla, Inc.’s longtime CFO Zachary Kirkhorn, who went by the official designation of “Master of Coin” announced Monday his decision to leave after a 13-year stint at the company. SMITH COLLECTON/GETTY IMAGES  

Boss Responds: Tesla CEO Elon Musk weighed in on the departure of one of his longstanding, trusted lieutenants. “I would like to thank Zach Kirkhorn for his many contributions to Tesla over the course of often difficult years,” he said in a post on the X social media platform he owns.

“Much appreciated and best wishes for the next stage of his career,” he added.

When a Tesla influencer commented that Kirkhorn may have got a job offer elsewhere, which he couldn’t refuse, the billionaire offered a glimpse into the former CFO’s potential post-Tesla life.

“13 years is a long tour of duty. Zach will spend time with friends & family, then do something else,” Musk said.

Two of the bullish Tesla analysts also offered their takes on the development.

Reading Between Lines: Future Fund’s Gary Black said Kirkhorn may have informed Musk about his plans to quit by the year-end. The fund manager noted that Tesla stock vested as part of Kirkhorn’s compensation package may have left him “very wealthy,” apparently referring to a lack of drive to stay on.

A Form 4 filed by Tesla on behalf of Kirkhorn on July 7 showed that he owned 197,540 Tesla shares, which would be valued at about $50 million based on Monday’s closing price of $251.45. His base salary for fiscal year 2022 was $300,000, according to the latest proxy statement.

Despite the Tesla CEO’s urging to stay back, the former executive may have insisted on leaving, prompting the billionaire to make to give immediate effect to the departure, according to Black.

Tesla, Inc.’s longtime CFO Zachary Kirkhorn, who went by the official designation of “Master of Coin” announced Monday his decision to leave after a 13-year stint at the company. SMITH COLLECTON/GETTY IMAGES  

The Future Fund Managing Partner said most amicable resignations after an executive stayed with the company for 10+ years will have a transition period of one to two quarters and the executes hands over control at the end of the transition period.

He also noted that nowhere in the 8-K filing concerning the development or Kirkhorn’s LinkedIn post was it mentioned that he had resigned.

Among the potential reasons Black explored include disagreement with Musk on some aspects of strategy related to price cuts or margins, or even succession. Probably, Kirkhorn was told he was not a contender for the CEO post, he added.

Meanwhile, Pierre Ferragu of New Street Research said Kirkhorn will be missed. “Excellent CFO for me, as an analyst best at answering questions that matter in a helpful way,” he said.

Although a CFO departure is always a risk, the well-planned transition bodes well in Tesla’s case, Ferragu said. Tesla promoted company insider Vaibhav Taneja as the next CFO.

“Part of the model: Tesla is best in the world at attracting talents, but will always struggle to retain them, given the intensity and the pace at which they get rich at Tesla!” Ferragu said.  

“Tesla has an incredible bench, I am not worried about the transition,” he added.

Tesla closed Monday’s session down 0.95% at $251.45, according to Zenger News Pro data.

Produced in association with Benzinga

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