April 26, 2018 — Harsh comments from Jim Chanos, founder and managing partner of Kynikos Associates, this morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box about Elon Musk and Tesla. His firm, well-known for its short-selling investment strategy, has been short on Tesla for four years. Chanos brings some street cred to the conversation. He was one of the first to go negative on what became two disasters in the investment world — Enron and Tyco.
(See the CNBC video Here).
Musk’s track record of making predictions about production and financial targets that later are missed are “ok in a bull market,” he says, but now that dynamic has disappeared. Chanos doesn’t think neither of Musk’s recent predictions that Tesla’s semi being available next year or its Roadster being ready in 2020 will happen.
Chanos refrained from using the “fraud” word when pushed by one of the show’s hosts, but did say he believes Musk has “crossed the Rubicon” with statements to investors “he might rue later.” He also says Musk likely will drop the Tesla CEO title at some point to focus on SpaceX, pointing out — somewhat tongue-in-cheek — that “Mars does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S.”
Another sign of trouble? Chanos argues the “torrent” of executives leaving — now a two-page, single spaced list from the past 18 months, is the “number one sign of impending problems.” His comments follow last night’s news that Tesla head of its Autopilot program, Jim Keller, is leaving for Intel. Keller is the fourth senior executive to leave Tesla since February when sales and service head Jon McNeill was named Lyft’s chief operating officer. In March, chief accounting officer Eric Branderiz and vice president of finance Susan Repo also left the company.
(Read our Report on Why Tesla’s Retail Strategy is its Achilles Heel.)
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