A new CEO could be a catalyst for better cars or a catastrophic blow to innovation. Time will tell.
Tesla director James Murdoch testified in court that Elon Musk had identified a potential successor to lead the electric automaker, reports Reuters.
Not much is known about the replacement. However, when asked whether the eccentric billionaire had selected someone as a possible candidate, Murdoch replied, "he actually has," adding that this was "in between the time where you took that deposition and now," referring to his own testimony. The company director revealed this information at the ongoing trial into Musk's $56 billion pay packet in 2018.
Former board member - and friend of Musk - Antonio Gracias testified that there were discussions about sourcing an "administrative CEO" to oversee departments such as sales, finance, and human resources. "[This is] so Musk can focus his time as chief product officer, which is his most vital function."
Musk recently acquired Twitter, which has seen several automotive brands suspend advertising on the social media site. The 51-year-old testified that he hopes to find someone else to run Twitter, too: "I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run Twitter over time." The CEO added that he expects "the fundamental organizational restructuring" of the platform to be completed soon.
"Frankly, I don't want to be CEO of any company," he added.
Investors are concerned about his ability to juggle his role as CEO of Twitter and Tesla without negatively affecting the latter. Murdoch admitted in court that Musk has some Tesla engineers working at Twitter but said the board is monitoring the situation.
"If it is taking away from Tesla work, that's something we also have to be very aware of and that we don't want it to be that way," said Murdoch.
"Most of the work, my understanding is, has been done. It was a short-term deployment," he added, noting that it was "paid for."
At a Tesla shareholder's meeting in August, Elon Musk said he would stay with the company "as long as I can be useful" when asked about a potential successor. "We do have a very talented team here. So I think Tesla would continue to do very well even if I was kidnapped by aliens or went back to my home planet maybe," joked Musk at the time.
Tesla, which produces the Model 3 and other EVs, is the most valuable automotive brand in the world. Over the years, it has yielded positive returns for long-term investors, but not all of them are happy with the company's direction.
Some investors are frustrated with the lack of transparency around Autopilot and incidents involving the technology, while others are displeased with the focus on robotics. Financial analysts have recommended that Tesla sticks to producing electric vehicles.
Whether a new appointment is made in the coming months remains to be seen, but many are calling for Musk to step down and make way for someone else. Whatever you may think of him, Musk is a visionary and has led Tesla to become the success it is today.
But, as evidenced by the repeated Cybertruck delays, a firm hand and strong leadership are needed.