The electric vehicle maker Nikola has just lost its executive chairman, Trevor Milton. Milton founded the company back in 2014 and has since seen it grow into a billion-dollar behemoth that its investors and fans hope could one day rival Tesla. But earlier this month, the company was accused by Hindenburg Research, a short-seller firm, of being “an intricate fraud built on dozens of lies.”
Among the “lies” Hindenburg alleges are that Milton presented a prototype truck as being closer to production-ready than it was and that the founder mischaracterized a business deal being worth more than it actually was, reports CNN Business.
I will be cheering from the sidelines with you. Your greatest fan. pic.twitter.com/IaYfZedYhK
— Trevor Milton (@nikolatrevor) September 21, 2020
Milton, for his part, has strongly denied the claims. However, in recent days Nikola’s stock fell by more than 25%, suggesting investors are worried by the allegations. And today, because of those allegations, Milton has announced he is stepping aside as executive chairman. In a statement posted to Twitter, Milton said, “The focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me. I intend to defend myself against false accusations leveled against me by outside detractors.”
Nikola also published a separate statement saying Milton “proposed to voluntarily step aside” and announced that Stephen Girsky, former vice chairman of General Motors, has been appointed the chairman of the board. Earlier this month, GM took an 11% stake in Nikola—days before Hindenburg lobbed its allegations.
For his part, Girsky said, “On behalf of the Board, I want to thank Trevor for his visionary leadership and significant contributions to Nikola since its founding. 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.”