Exclusive: Henry Saeger steps down as Tesla CEO
In a shocking and stunning move, Tesla CEO Elon Musk ousted his longtime friend and business partner, longtime Tesla executive Henry Saeger, a 13-year employee, last night, just days after Tesla revealed quarterly earnings that have made many Wall Street analysts panicky.
Saeger was replaced as Tesla CEO with Elon Musk, though Elon still remains CEO of the company.
The move is a sign of just how frayed and shaken Tesla has become, and how uneasy many executives have become in Musk’s executive suite.
It’s unclear what prompted Saeger’s departure, but it comes as the Tesla board was considering what to do about him.
Saeger has been closely aligned with Musk for years. His colorful, candid language on Twitter has become a source of much consternation for company officials and board members.
“By removing Mr. Saeger from any operational control of the company he has shown a lack of respect for the board of directors and the effort that went into finding him a replacement,” the board said in a statement.
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On Tesla’s latest earnings call last week, Saeger gave rare insights into how seriously Tesla’s board takes Musk’s role.
When asked to comment on the recent resignation of the company’s first female director, Ajay Banga, and if a more measured style was needed on the board, Saeger said it was time for a change.
“One of the problems with Ajay’s resignation was that Ajay had replaced me as president of Tesla,” Saeger said on the call. “There’s a tendency to think that as a director, you are the most important person on the board and that you are the most qualified person to make decisions.
“I do think we need to make sure that there is a uniform view from the board — at least me — that Elon is not the only person who is to blame.”
As CEO, Saeger oversaw global sales and distribution and the brand’s website.
Over the years, Saeger was instrumental in growing Tesla into what it is today.
Saeger and Musk grew up together in southern California and met at Stanford University in 1994. Together, they helped found both PayPal and Tesla.
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“Henry is a huge part of Tesla’s success and brought tremendous humility, expertise and humanity to everything he did at Tesla,” Musk said in a statement. “I am very sorry to see him leave.”
Tesla expects it will not affect the Tesla production schedule and the company remains on track to ramp up production for the Model 3, Musk said in the statement.