Tesla Chief Financial Officer Zachary Kirkhorn stepped down after 13 years at the electric-vehicle maker, a surprise shakeup that raises new questions about succession in the top ranks of Elon Musk’s company.
Kirkhorn, one of just four executive officers and a prominent voice for the company with shareholders, resigned from his duties August 4, the company said Monday in a regulatory filing. He’ll continue to serve in an unspecified capacity through the end of the year “to support a seamless transition.”
Chief Accounting Officer Vaibhav Taneja took on the CFO role in addition to his current duties, Tesla said. Taneja, 45, held several positions at the EV maker before becoming accounting chief in 2019. He previously worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in India and the US.
Tesla shares fell 1% in New York. The stock price has more than doubled so far this year.
Kirkhorn’s departure comes as Tesla builds a new factory in Mexico and prepares to bring its Cybertruck pickup to market as it fends off rivals in the increasingly crowded EV market. Tesla has lowered prices across its lineup to maintain its position atop the electric-car industry.
“He’s done a 13-year tour of duty working for Elon, which is like working 50 years for anyone else,” said Gene Munster, managing partner of Deepwater Asset Management. “The fact that he’s sticking around until the end of the year bodes well for the transition.”
Still, the departure of Kirkhorn, who was considered a top contender to succeed Musk as chief executive officer, renews uncertainty over leadership at Tesla. It also instantly raises the profile of Taneja, who wasn’t among the 16 executives invited on stage with Musk at an investor meeting in March.
Musk thanked Kirkhorn in a tweet and acknowledged that his tenure wasn’t an easy one. He didn’t give any hints about what might be next for the outgoing executive.