Tesla CFO Departs After 13 Years of Stellar Performance


Zachary Kirkhorn, the “Master of Coin” and Chief Financial Officer of Tesla, has resigned after four years and six months in the position.

Kirkhorn joined Tesla in 2004 as a senior financial analyst, according to his LinkedIn profile, and was promoted to chief financial officer in 2019. Kirkhorn’s job title was changed to Master of Coin in a March 2021 filing by Tesla, while Elon Musk’s was altered to “Technoking.” This filing also indicated that both parties would retain their more conventional titles of CFO and CEO. The title changes were made shortly after Tesla acquired $1.5 billion in bitcoin, but there was no connection between the two events.

Vaibhav Taneja, most recently chief accounting officer at Tesla, will assume the role of chief financial officer. It is unknown whether Taneja will also assume the position of “Master of Coin” or whether the title will be discontinued. Kirkhorn’s departure was not explained. Tesla, which typically does not respond to media inquiries, did not respond to inquiries regarding personnel changes or position titles.

The news caused Tesla shares to decline in early trading. As of 3:02 p.m. in New York, they were trading 1.4% lower at $250.36, compared to a decline of as much as 4.4%. The stock price has more than doubled this year.

Kirkhorn’s departure coincides with Tesla’s construction of a new factory in Mexico and its preparation to launch its Cybertruck vehicle in an increasingly competitive EV market. Tesla has reduced prices across its entire portfolio in order to maintain its leadership position in the electric vehicle industry.

“He has worked for Elon for 13 years, which is equivalent to working for any other company for 50 years,” said Deepwater Asset Management’s managing partner Gene Munster. His decision to remain until the end of the year bodes well for the impending transition.

However, the departure of Kirkhorn, who was considered a leading candidate to succeed Musk as CEO, renews uncertainty regarding Tesla’s leadership. It also immediately elevates the prominence of Taneja, who was not among the sixteen executives invited to join Musk on stage at the March investor meeting.

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Kirkhorn’s Remarkable Rise at Tesla: From Analyst to CFO at 34

Zachary Kirkhorn, the “Master of Coin” and Chief Financial Officer of Tesla, has resigned after four years and six months in the position.

Kirkhorn joined Tesla in 2010 as a senior financial analyst and has since been promoted five times, most recently in early 2019 to the position of chief financial officer at the age of 34. Prior to his leadership, Tesla had a lengthy history of losses and occasionally burned through more than $1 billion in cash each quarter. Since then, the company has been consistently profitable and has repaid approximately $10 billion in debt over the past three years, thereby achieving investment-grade ratings. Additionally, it will enter the S&P 500 Index in December 2020. 

Kirkhorn, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, worked for Deepak Ahuja and Jason Wheeler, his predecessors as chief financial officer. On Tesla’s quarterly earnings calls, he spoke at length and was praised by investors for containing costs. He frequently stated that recurring revenue from software would play an increasingly important role in the future.

“Zach did a great job of expanding margins,” said Munster. “When corporations increase production, their margins are typically under duress. He inserted the needle, which is a difficult task.”

Last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, Kirkhorn owned 197,540 shares worth approximately $49 million. Recently, he sold approximately $1 million in shares.

Kirkhorn posted on LinkedIn on Monday, “Being a part of this company is a truly unique experience, and I’m extremely proud of the work we’ve accomplished together.” “I would also like to honor Elon for his leadership and optimism, which have inspired so many individuals.

Kirkhorn’s demeanor on earnings calls contrasted sharply with Musk’s infamous bombast. 

Cathie Wood, CEO & CIO of Ark Investment Management, stated in an interview on Monday that she will mourn Kirkhorn’s presence but that Taneja is qualified for the CFO position. 

“We will miss him, but his replacement has been at Tesla since 2018,” said Wood of Kirkhorn and Taneja. “He trained his successor well.”

Tesla contributes the most money to Ark’s signature Ark Innovation ETF. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, it constitutes approximately 11% of the fund’s net asset value.

Early in 2021, roughly one month after Tesla disclosed a $1.5 billion investment in Bitcoin, the executive added “Master of Coin” to his job title. Musk was assigned the tongue-in-cheek title at the same moment he became “Technoking of Tesla.”

Monday’s filing did not list “Master of Coin” as one of Taneja’s responsibilities as new CFO.Craig Trudell, David Welch, and Ed Ludlow contributed to the effort.


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Source: CNN, Fortune

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