June, 15

Tesla: New Tesla CFO has two jobs and a lot of question marks

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Tesla Inc has a long history of promoting talent from within. Outside hires don’t last for very long in the carmaker’s scrappy, hard-charging culture, and it takes a certain stamina to work for Elon Musk.

Tesla’s new chief financial officer, Vaibhav Taneja, already has a hefty gig serving as the company’s chief accounting officer. Tesla watchers were surprised to hear Monday that he was replacing Zach Kirkhorn, a 13-year Tesla veteran who abruptly stepped down from the CFO post.
While Kirkhorn has been a calm, steady presence and regularly spoke at length with investors, even playing the role of Musk’s surrogate the time he skipped Tesla’s earnings presentation, Taneja is less well-known. He worked for Tesla’s accounting firm and later at SolarCity, a troubled company many investors wish the EV maker hadn’t acquired. He has spoken briefly on just one Tesla earnings call, back in early 2019.

Taneja, 45, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Shares of the company fell 1.1% on Tuesday to $248.58 as of 9:34am in New York. The stock has more than doubled so far this year.
The change comes at a critical time for Tesla. The company is building a new factory in Mexico and preparing to bring its Cybertruck pickup to the market as it fends off rivals in the increasingly crowded EV market. Tesla has been cutting prices across its lineup to maintain its position atop the electric-car industry, and profitability has taken a hit.
Taneja started his career in New Delhi. He graduated in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Delhi University, according to his LinkedIn profile. He then spent almost 17 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Tesla’s longtime accounting firm.
He joined SolarCity in 2016 and became corporate controller. Tesla soon thereafter acquired the solar panel installer. The automaker’s shareholders later sued Musk and Tesla’s board, accusing them of hiding SolarCity’s financial woes.
Taneja became Tesla’s corporate controller in May 2018 and was named chief accounting officer in March 2019. His predecessor, Dave Morton, had been hired away from Seagate Technology but resigned after less than a month.
Unusual arrangement
Greg Selker, a managing director at executive search firm Stanton Chase, said that the general trend in corporate America is to hire business-oriented CFOs with a lot of operational experience. Taneja came up through the auditing ranks at PwC and his two concurrent titles at Tesla are an unusual arrangement.
“A CAO is responsible for all of the financial reporting — Taneja is really an accountant’s accountant,” Selker said in a phone interview. “Typically, a CFO has a broader business background.”
Taneja may have been instrumental to Tesla’s early inroads in India. He’s one of the four directors at Tesla India Motors and Energy Private Ltd., which was established in 2021 in the southern city of Bengaluru, according to the the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Tesla doesn’t sell any EVs in India yet.
He owned about 105,000 shares of the company as of July 7, a stake that is currently valued at about $26 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Musk, the richest person in the world, oversees six companies: Tesla, SpaceX, X (formerly known as Twitter), Boring Co., Neuralink and xAI, his most recent venture. Musk’s many interests and the competing demands for his time have long raised concerns about whether Tesla is too dependent on a single individual.
The EV maker has just four executive officers: Musk, Drew Baglino, the senior vice president of powertrain and energy engineering; Tom Zhu, senior vice president of automotive; and now Taneja.

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