Elon Musk is not your typical CEO. Now he has a new title to prove it.
In a filing with his least favorite regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, on Monday, Tesla disclosed that Musk is adding the title of “Technoking of Tesla.” It also said that Chief Financial Officer Zach Kirkhorn had taken on the title of “Master of Coin.”
Each executive will keep his more standard title as well.
Musk once had the title of chairman of Tesla, but he was stripped of that title in 2018 in a settlement with the SEC over deceptive tweets he sent out. He had said that “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 a share, when, in fact, he had only had discussions, not a firm agreement, on such funding with a Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
The SEC originally sought to strip him of his CEO title, but settled for having him pay a $20 million fine and give up the chairman title instead, a position now held by Robyn Denholm.
The bizarre title changes overshadowed a separate filing, which disclosed that Jerome Guillen, who has been president of Tesla’s automotive division, “transitioned” last week to president of Tesla heavy truck.
Tesla has been working on an electric semi-tractor truck. But it is severely delayed: Tesla originally promised it would be available in 2019. In January, Musk told investors it “would not make sense” to build the truck right now, because it would require five times as many batteries as a Tesla car — but it would not sell for five times as much money. The batteries are a significant part of the cost of an electric vehicle.
While Guillen had the title of president of Tesla automotive, it was clear that Musk was the one overseeing the company’s automotive operations, in addition to his role as chairman, CEO and chief technology officer of rocket company SpaceX.
From the start, Musk has run Tesla as a disruptive force trying to change the entire auto industry and shift the world to using electric rather than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. Among his most recent disruptive moves was the disclosure that Tesla has purchased volatile digital currency bitcoin with $1.5 billion of its cash on hand.
Musk has been a vocal critic of safety measures taken to combat Covid-19, using an investor call for an obscenity laced rant in which he called such measures “fascist” and un-American. That wasn’t his only unusual investor call: During a call in 2018 he interrupted his then-CFO who was answering an analyst question to say, “Boring, bonehead questions are not cool. Next?” He insulted others asking questions on that call, too.
He also recently reached out on Twitter to Russian President Vladimir Putin to ask if he’d like to do an interview with him on social media app Clubhouse. In the past he’s gone on a podcast and smoked pot, although it was done in California where it was legal.
Tesla has on occasion seen rapid turnover of top executives, including a chief accounting officer who left after less than a month on the job following his tweet about taking the company private. But Kirkhorn — the newly appointed Master of the Coin — has held the CFO title for two years.
Investors have embraced Musk and Tesla, driving up the value of the firm’s shares to make it one of the most valuable US companies of any kind. The company is worth roughly as much as the world’s seven largest automakers combined.
But the stock has been on something of a rollercoaster recently. It closed Friday down 21% from its record high close in late January. That places it in bear market territory — although it was up 23% from where it closed on Monday of last week.