[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]
Nikola Executive Chairman Trevor Milton announced on Sept. 21 that he has voluntarily stepped aside immediately as executive chairman and board member of the company he created, just weeks after the company signed a multibillion dollar agreement with General Motors but amid allegations by a short-selling firm that accused Milton and Nikola of deceptive practices with its electric truck technology.
“Nikola is in my blood and always will be. You are part of that Nikola family and always will be part of mine as well,” Milton said in a letter to the company’s employees. “I made the decision to approach the board of directors and volunteer to step aside from my roles as executive chairman and a member of the board of directors. The focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me. We have to keep our eye on the target and deliver without distractions.”
In the announcement the company said Stephen Girsky, a former vice chairman at General Motors and current member of Nikola’s board, has been appointed chairman of the board, effective immediately.
I will be cheering from the sidelines with you. Your greatest fan. pic.twitter.com/IaYfZedYhK
— Trevor Milton (@nikolatrevor) September 21, 2020
“As we move forward, I am confident Steve is the right leader to guide our vision at the board level,” Milton said. “In addition to being an early believer and supporter of Nikola, Steve has more than 30 years of experience working with OEM leaders, suppliers, dealers, labor leaders and national policy makers, and has served as a director of numerous public companies.”
Milton has been a high-profile leader at Nikola, frequently on Twitter and accessible to the media, and he has attracted the attention of the trucking industry, both positively and negatively.
On Sept. 10, just days after announcing a $2 billion agreement with General Motors, Nikola found itself aggressively fighting back against a “short seller” who accused the startup of deceiving the public about its electric technology.
Hindenburg Research, which said it specializes in forensic financial research, published an article which said, among other things, that Nikola staged a 2018 video of its hydrogen fuel cell truck driving under its own power. The report also said Nikola made deceptive claims about its efforts to develop long-range batteries.
However, Hindenburg admitted it has a financial interest in Nikola — it holds a short position in Nikola stock. (A short seller is an investor who borrows a stock and sells it on the open market, planning to buy it back, and profit from, a drop in the stock’s price.)
Milton denied the allegations and promised to defend himself and company. Nikola has retained the law firm Kirkland and Ellis.
In his departure letter, Milton said Girsky and the company will continue to aggressively move forward with its hydrogen fuel cell electric truck.
“You have worked tirelessly toward Nikola’s goal of becoming the global leader in zero-emissions transportation, and I wanted you to hear about my decision directly from me. Thank you for sharing in my vision, and it has been an honor to work with you,” Milton said to Nikola employees.
Girsky promised to make the transition in leadership as seamless as possible. “On behalf of the board, I want to thank Trevor for his visionary leadership and significant contributions to Nikola since its founding,” Girsky said. “Trevor saw the possibility of creating an end-to-end zero-emission transportation system when the industry was still in its nascent stages and took action to build the Nikola of today, with world-class partnerships, groundbreaking R&D, and a revolutionary business model. I know I speak for everyone at Nikola in our gratitude and in wishing him all the best.”
On Sept. 8, Milton and General Motors Chair Mary Barra announced a $2 billion deal in which GM would manufacture Nikola’s consumer-facing, electric Badger pick-up trucks. After the Hindenburg allegations came forward, GM issued a statement saying it stood with Nikola and it would continue the deal with Nikola.
Want more news? Listen to today’s daily briefing: