Griping about Tesla

According to an online message board post, founder Martin Eberhard allegedly is not happy with a series of demotions.

Tesla Motors founder Martin Eberhard, or at least a person who claims to be him on an online message board, says he's not happy about being pushed out of the management team.

Michael Kanellos/CNET Networks

Eberhard this summer stepped down from the CEO spot amid production delays and was replaced with interim CEO Michael Marks. In November, Tesla appointed a permanent CEO. What was less noticed was that Eberhard at that time also stepped down from the board. His official connection to the company now, besides being a major stockholder, is as a member of the advisory board.

On the Tesla Motors Club Web site, Eberhard, or a person claiming to be Eberhard, wrote this:

"I have also signed a non-disparagement agreement with Tesla, so I must, by contract, be a bit careful about how I word things.

"But I am also not going to lie about it. I am not at all happy with the way I was treated, and I do not think this was the very best way to handle a transition--not the best for Tesla Motors, not the best for Tesla's customers (to whom I still feel a strong sense of responsibility), and not for Tesla's investors."

Another post from the same person said that the employees threw him a party and that he left in tears. The news was first reported, I believe, on Earth2Tech. At least that's where I saw it.

We don't know if the note is from Eberhard, but he is no longer on the board of directors. The choice of "non-disparagement agreement" is a bit weird. Never heard that term. On the other hand, the other posts from this person point to Eberhard. He talks about taking test drives near the company facility and a talk at Stanford. He's been posting since August. So it looks pretty real.

Founders and companies often part in ugly ways in Silicon Valley. The visionaries who come up with new companies aren't great at the logistical tasks, like coming out with products on time. There are exceptions--Bill Gates, Michael Dell--but if you look at a lot of companies, you won't see the founder in the CEO slot.

Getting a car company off the ground, moreover, is a logistical nightmare. Just think of the manufacturing facilities you have to organize. Tesla had to delay releasing its car in the summer of 2007, pushing it to the first quarter of 2008, and it cut back the first year of production. The new CEO is Ze'ev Drori.

Before Tesla, Eberhard founded NuvoMedia, which tried to make electronic books. Few consumers bought them, but Gemstar snapped up the company amid dot-com fever. Eberhard used his millions from that deal to found Tesla.

 

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