He Said, He Said: War Of Words Keeps Tesla In The News

June 30, 2009


You've got to hand it to Tesla: the company does a great job of staying in the headlines. Sometimes, that's for laudable things--like the opening of the company's first European showroom, or receiving a sizeble loan from the Department of Energy. Then again, sometimes it's because the company's CEO has a penchant for calling journalists douchebags. Today's news falls into the latter category. Lucky us.

Quick recap: Tesla was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, both engineers. They were joined in 2004 by Elon Musk, whose substantial investment in Tesla made him the company's primary shareholder. In 2005, Musk became the board chairman, while Eberhard served as CEO. Then, in August of 2007, Eberhard got the boot (though his official acknowledgement of that fact took another few months). Two more folks served as CEO until October 2008, when Musk took on the job.

Still with us?

Last week: Recently, the big news about that personnel shuffle -- specifically, Eberhard's ouster -- has concerned Musk and Eberhard both taking credit for Tesla's success, and Eberhard suing Musk for libel and slander. (Musk has apparently gone on record blaming Eberhard for Tesla's financial problems. Eberhard figured it was time to retaliate around the same time that the DOE was preparing to announce its aforementioned sizable loan to the company.)  Musk refuted Eberhard's claim in a really long blog post on the Tesla website, but how all that shakes out is a matter best left to the courts.

This week: Now Tesla's former chief marketing officer, Darryl Siry, and the company's former communications director, David Vespremi, have entered the ring. Siry says, in essence, that Eberhard and Musk are both full of it: they're just pitchmen, when in fact Tom Gage and Alan Cocconi of AC Propulsion deserve the credit for Tesla's success, since they developed the necessary technology for the Tesla Roadster.

Nuh-uh, responds Vespremi. (We paraphrase.) He argues that Gage and Cocconi's work would've gone nowhere if Eberhard and Musk seen the possibilities such technology held and began building Tesla's brand. Complicating matters further: Siry fired Vespremi from Tesla, then Vespremi sued him.

Are you people from Univision writing this stuff down?

We don't have an official opinion on any of these matters--and if we did, we probably wouldn't share it, since the parties involved have clearly demonstrated their Type-A litigious tendencies. But of course, if you wanna weigh in by email or comment, knock yourself out...

[BusinessInsider, et al]

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