Elon Musk announced today he has appointed a replacement for the CEO role at Twitter, and now a report says the board at Tesla has discussed a successor for him there, too.

    The Wall Street Journal reports word from a source sayingTesla board members have considered making the company’s chief financial officer, Zach Kirkhorn, the next CEO.

    The source says Mr Kirkhorn’s name was floated for the role even before a trial over Mr Musk’s pay – instigated by a shareholder – started last year.

    However, board members have reportedly expressed doubts Mr Musk would step aside “in the foreseeable future”.

    He first joined Tesla as a senior analyst in 2010, and took on the role of CFO in 2019. He’s 38 years old, and previously worked at prominent firm McKinsey & Company and interned at Microsoft.

    Under Mr Kirkhorn’s stewardship, Tesla has gone from having a valuation of around US$50 billion (A$74.68bn) to more than US$500 billion (A$746.8bn).

    The Journal compared Mr Musk’s relationship with Mr Kirkhorn as analogous to that of Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs and its current CEO Tim Cook, suggesting Mr Musk and Mr Jobs were willing to take “risky bets” to build their companies.

    In contrast, Mr Cook and Mr Kirkhorn have proved more cautious.

    The publication also cites feedback from Tesla staff that Mr Kirkhorn is adept at responding to his boss’ requests and often serves as a mediator between him and other workers.

    Former battery technology senior director Kurt Kelty told the Journal Mr Kirkhorn is careful not to take the limelight from his boss.

    Company co-founder and current board member J.B. Straubel said he works well and has earned Mr Musk’s trust because he’s careful to “share the bad news even louder and faster than the good news”.

    The CFO keeps a low profile online, in stark contrast to his social media-savvy boss who even went so far as to buy a social media platform.

    Mr Kirkhorn’s Twitter profile is even set to private.

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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