SAN FRANCISCO -- Elon Musk has said the “short burn of the century” is coming soon to investors betting against Tesla Inc., but he's rapidly losing top deputies to help him deliver on that prediction.
Doug Field, senior vice president of engineering, is taking time away from the company to recharge, according to a company spokesman. His sabbatical is significant: Musk has said he regards Field as “one the world’s most talented” engineering executives. He’s one of only four executive officers named in the company’s recent proxy statement.
Field’s break follows a broader exodus of top executives, including Tesla’s primary contact with U.S. regulators, the head of its driver-assistance system Autopilot and the company’s global sales chief. On Monday, Musk announced a “thorough reorganization” in a memo to employees. Tesla will be “flattening the management structure to improve communication, combining functions where sensible and trimming activities that are not vital to the success of our mission.”
Tesla’s executive churn is among the reasons some investors say they’re wagering against shares of the company, which is valued similar to General Motors despite selling a fraction as many vehicles and burning through billions in cash. Famed investor Jim Chanos maintains a list of departures that he calls “stunning” and says the turnover is comparable to what his firm Kynikos Associates Ltd. observed at Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and Enron Corp. -- two wildly successful short bets.