Elon Musk is fighting back and he is not out yet, but the SEC is clearly trying to ban him from holding a director or executive position at Tesla.
If they are successful in banning him, who would be next in line to lead the automaker?
Internally, three names come to mind: JB Straubel, Jerome Guillen, and Deepak Ahuja.
Straubel is Chief Technology Officer and he has been with Tesla since the very beginning. He is officially considered a co-founder of the automaker.
Despite being one of the youngest executives, he is the most senior one in terms of experience at the company.
That said, his role has been somewhat limited to the technology aspect, especially battery technology and leading the Gigafactory effort to expand battery production.
Guillen has been at Tesla for 8 years and he is arguably the executive with the most range of experience at the automaker.
He started by leading the Model S program. He went on to also lead vehicle engineering, worldwide sales and service, and the Tesla Semi truck program.
Most recently, he was promoted to ‘President of Automotive’ in charge of “all automotive operations and program management.”
Guillen has a deep engineering background, which has been prioritized at Tesla, he has one of the most diverse experiences in the auto industry and within Tesla itself.
Ahuja is also at the top of the list. He has been Tesla’s Chief Financial Officer for 9 years between two different stints at the company.
He also more experience in the traditional auto industry than likely anyone else at Tesla.
The CFO worked for Ford in a multitude of roles ranging from business to manufacturing to marketing and sales.
Furthermore, he also has an engineering background, which again is something that Tesla likes in its executives.
Let me start by saying that I think the chances of Musk being pushed out of Tesla due to this SEC lawsuit are quite low. Even if the SEC gets the upper hand, it is most likely going to be a temporary ban from a director position.
Musk will likely be able to retain his CEO role. That said, SEC is seeking for him to be barred from director and officer roles.
In the off chance that they succeed, here’s my 2 cents on who could potentially replace him.
I think Straubel is one of the best proponents of Tesla’s mission. Having him as CEO would likely result in Tesla staying as close to its mission as possible, which is the most important thing in my opinion. That said, he might be too valuable in his role as CTO to give him the responsibilities of CEO and have him spend less time on technology.
As Musk himself said, the pace of innovation is the most important thing and Straubel is arguably responsible for a large percentage of the pace of innovation at Tesla.
In my opinion, Guillen and Ahuja are the best choices due to their diverse backgrounds in the auto industry.
I could see either of them as CEO of Tesla or even have them as co-CEOs.
Tesla’s board could also recruit from outside the company and they could likely attract some top talent, but I think the most important thing is to have someone who is a champion of Tesla’s mission.
With that in mind, I think it would be easier to find someone internally, but it’s not impossible to find a good match outside of Tesla.
What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.