Tesla’s CFO is leaving.
Zachary Kirkhorn worked 13 years under Elon Musk until he confirmed Monday that he’s leaving Tesla.
That number of years working for Musk is like “working 50 years for anyone else,” Gene Munster said.
Kirkhorn did not say why he’s leaving Tesla, but called his time there a “special experience.”
Zachary Kirkhorn, the Tesla executive once thought to be Elon Musk’s successor, is quitting after a 13-year career under the billionaire — which is essentially the equivalent of working 50 years for another boss, said veteran investor and analyst Gene Munster.
“He’s done a 13-year tour of duty working for Elon, which is like working 50 years for anyone else,” Munster told Bloomberg. Munster is a managing partner at Deepwater Asset Management, a Minnesota-based venture capital firm.
Tesla announced Kirkhorn’s surprise departure in an SEC filing on Monday, after which the chief financial officer confirmed on LinkedIn that he was leaving the electric car maker.
Kirkhorn joined Tesla as a senior financial analyst in 2010, and became CFO in 2019, per his LinkedIn profile.
After his ascension to the role, Tesla began turning a profit and repaid billions in debt, skyrocketing its value.
“Zach did a great job expanding margins,” said Munster, per Bloomberg. “Usually, when companies scale up production, their margins come under pressure. He threaded the needle, and that’s a hard thing to do.”
In his announcement on LinkedIn, Kirkhorn didn’t say why he left Tesla, but thanked Musk and called his time at Tesla a “special experience.”
Musk’s management style has come under scrutiny in recent years, particularly amid his haphazard, layoff-heavy takeover of Twitter, now rebranded to X, and repeated allegations that he tends to fire people who disagree with him.
“If you said something wrong or made one mistake or rubbed him the wrong way, he would decide you’re an idiot, and there was nothing that could change his mind,” a Tesla senior engineering executive told Wired in 2018.
That year, 42 Tesla employees who spoke to Insider said the company had become almost like a “cult” dedicated to Musk, who was demanding but pushed people to exceed their own expectations.
Dolly Singh, former head of talent acquisition for SpaceX, told Insider in 2014 that Musk was like a “master diamond maker” who puts immense pressure on his employees.
“He is also likely aware how much it sucks on the receiving end, but he knows you will exceed your own expectations if he keeps the heat on,” she said.
In his LinkedIn post, Kirkhorn wrote that he will remain in Tesla until its leadership transition is complete. Its next CFO is to be Vaibhav Taneja.
“The fact that he’s sticking around until the end of the year bodes well for the transition,” Munster said, per Bloomberg.
Musk addressed Kirkhorn’s departure in a tweet on Monday, thanking the CFO “for his many contributions to Tesla over the course of 13 often difficult years.”
“Much appreciated and best wishes for the next stage of his career,” he wrote.
Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside regular business hours.