An electric vehicle entrepreneur with a bad Twitter addiction, dangerous propensity towards grandiose promises, a wandering spirit of innovation, a need for a babysitter, and a knack for raising the eyebrows and blood pressures of short sellers and regulators has been forced from his pedestal by a burgeoning fraud scandal.
No, not that one: He’s invincible. It’s Nikola Corp. founder Trevor Milton, who’s off to revolutionize vertical farming in a county with a population density of 22.5 per square mile, or at least claim to have done so.
Mr. Milton said he offered to resign to shift the focus away from the company, and the board accepted. He added in a statement posted on his Twitter account early Monday that he intended to defend himself against “false allegations leveled against me by outside detractors….” His decision to resign came abruptly, following a turbulent period for Nikola, in which the company’s stock has lost about one-fifth its value since the Hindenburg report was released. The stock was down more than 21% in late morning trading Monday.
And so ends the electric-vehicle story of a man who just three months ago was making Elon Musk nervous. And you can sort of see why, as the shock of recognition when Musk saw Milton must have shaken him to his very core, such as it is.
He served as chief executive until the company went public, at which point he became executive chairman and Mark Russell was appointed as CEO. Investors have seen Mr. Russell as a calming influence over the ebullient behavior of Mr. Milton, who has frequently vented frustrations and shared ideas via Twitter…. He has described himself as a serial entrepreneur, and was involved in a string of businesses, including an alarm and security company, an e-marketplace and another heavy-truck startup focused on compressed natural gas—all this before founding Nikola….
Most of the allegations in the short seller’s report directly involved Mr. Milton, who has served as the face of the company and spent years tweeting and live streaming many of the statements now under examination.