Why did Tesla’s CFO, Zach Kirkhorn, leave?

Why did Tesla's CFO, Zach Kirkhorn, leave?

Tesla CFO Steps Down: What Does It Mean for the Electric Vehicle Giant?


In a surprising turn of events, Zachary Kirkhorn, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Tesla, has stepped down from his position as of August 4th, leaving investors and industry insiders speculating about the reasons behind his departure. Tesla, the electric vehicle company led by Elon Musk, also announced the appointment of Vaibhav Taneja as the new CFO, along with his current role as Chief Accounting Officer, in an SEC filing. While the document did not provide any specific reasons for Kirkhorn’s departure, it hinted at his impactful contribution to Tesla’s growth and expansion during his tenure.

Kirkhorn’s journey with Tesla began in March 2010 when he joined as a senior analyst in finance. His appointment as CFO in 2019 coincided with Tesla’s valuation skyrocketing from $50 billion to an astonishing $773 billion today. Prior to Kirkhorn’s tenure, Tesla struggled with losses and cash burn, with occasional quarterly cash outflows exceeding $1 billion. However, under Kirkhorn’s financial stewardship, Tesla achieved profitability and managed to repay approximately $10 billion of debt, ultimately obtaining investment-grade ratings. His departure marks the end of a remarkable chapter in Tesla’s history, with industry experts widely speculating about his future plans.

One theory behind Kirkhorn’s departure is that he feels he has accomplished the “heavy lifting” at Tesla. With the company’s tremendous growth and successful turnaround, it is speculated that Kirkhorn may be seeking new challenges and possibly eyeing a CEO position at another organization. Analysts believe that he may embark on this new journey as early as 2024. Nevertheless, despite Kirkhorn’s departure, industry experts assert that Tesla has a strong bench of talented individuals who could effectively take the company forward.

While the exact reasons for Kirkhorn’s departure remain unknown, his LinkedIn post expressed gratitude towards the employees at Tesla and acknowledged Elon Musk for his inspirational leadership. This suggests that Kirkhorn’s decision to leave was likely amicable and motivated by personal and professional aspirations.

Beyond Tesla, major companies across various sectors have witnessed changes in their CFO positions recently. These shifts often provoke curiosity and speculation, but they also signify the dynamic nature of the business world. CFOs play a critical role in shaping the financial strategies and success of companies, making their transitions noteworthy.

Private Equity Portfolio Companies Headed for Possible Bankruptcy Surge


The credit tightening environment has raised concerns about the financial stability of private equity portfolio companies in the United States. A recent analysis conducted by S&P Global Market Intelligence reveals that these companies may experience the highest number of annual bankruptcy filings since 2010. In the first half of this year alone, 338 U.S. companies filed for bankruptcy protection, including 54 companies with private equity or venture capital backing. If the current pace continues, the number of bankruptcies by private equity portfolio companies is projected to surpass 108 by the end of 2023. This would exceed the 2020 total of 95 such bankruptcies and represent the highest figure in over a decade.

The alarming increase in bankruptcy filings can be attributed to the challenging economic conditions and credit constraints experienced by private equity portfolio companies. This trend raises concerns about the financial health and viability of these businesses, as well as the potential impact on investors and other stakeholders.

Positive Outlook for Pension Plan Funding Levels

A new report by Mercer, a global consulting firm and a business of Marsh McLennan, brings positive news for pension plan sponsors. The estimated aggregate funding level of pension plans sponsored by S&P 1500 companies increased by 2% in July 2023 to reach 107%. This growth can be attributed to an increase in equity markets and an upward adjustment in discount rates. As of July 31, the estimated aggregate surplus stood at $119 billion, representing a $34 billion increase compared to the end of June.

The rise in pension plan funding levels provides reassurance to plan sponsors and beneficiaries, indicating improved financial stability for retirement funds. It also underscores the importance of monitoring and managing pension fund investments in alignment with overall economic conditions and market trends.

CFO Resignations and Unexpected Tragedy in the Corporate World

The volatility in the CFO landscape has been witnessed across several major companies, with notable departures and unexpected tragedies shaping these developments.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced the resignation of Tarek Robbiati, its EVP and CFO, effective August 25. Robbiati is leaving HPE to assume the CEO role at RingCentral, Inc. During his tenure at HPE, Robbiati played a pivotal role in enhancing the company’s financial performance, increasing gross margins, operating profit margin, and free cash flow. The announcement also highlighted his contributions to strategic acquisitions. Jeremy Cox, the Senior Vice President, Corporate Controller, and Chief Tax Officer, will temporarily serve as interim CFO until a permanent successor is appointed.

Daimler Truck Holding AG unexpectedly suffered a significant loss with the tragic passing of Jochen Goetz, its CFO. Goetz, who had been with the Daimler Group for over 36 years, served on the board of management and was responsible for finance and controlling, non-production material procurement, services, and IT. Goetz’s untimely death is mourned by the company, with his professionalism and dedication recognized as immense losses.

Zoom’s Hybrid Approach: Striking a Balance

“We believe that a structured hybrid approach—meaning employees who live near an office need to be on-site two days a week to interact with their teams—is most effective for Zoom.”1

Zoom Video Communications recently announced its approach to hybrid work, emphasizing the importance of face-to-face interaction for employees residing within 50 miles of a Zoom office. This requirement reflects the company’s belief that a structured hybrid model, involving two on-site workdays, provides the most effective working environment for teams and promotes collaboration. Zoom’s approach demonstrates the ongoing effort to strike a balance between remote work flexibility and in-person interactions, acknowledging the unique benefits each modality offers.

As the CFO landscape continues to evolve, driven by both planned transitions and unexpected events, it highlights the significance of these key roles within organizations. The departure of a CFO, such as Zachary Kirkhorn from Tesla, prompts speculation and sets the stage for new ventures and possibilities. Additionally, the financial challenges faced by private equity portfolio companies, the positive trends in pension plan funding, and notable CFO resignations and tragedies underscore the dynamic nature of the corporate world. It is within this ever-changing landscape that companies and individuals adapt, learn, and navigate to achieve their goals.

Sheryl Estrada
[email protected]

1 Insider – Zoom