Tesla Has Lost Over 40 Execs in a Year, Including 2 Top Lawyers in 2 Months

Tesla's newly appointed general counsel is returning to his old job after just two months.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is also the company's chairman of board of directors.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Tesla (TSLA) has lost two general counsels in just two months.

On Wednesday, the electric carmaker said its top lawyer Dane Butswinkas, who joined the company in December of last year, would step down to return to his previous independent practice at law firm Williams & Connolly, Reuters first reported.

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Butswinkas had been a partner at Williams & Connolly for three decades before joining Tesla, leading the firm’s services for financial services and banking groups.

Butswinka’s predecessor at Tesla, Todd Maron, had planned a transition for the top legal role since July last year. He announced his resignation in December and stayed until January to ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities.

Tesla said Butswinkas would be replaced by Jonathan Chang, the company’s current vice president of its legal department. Chang has a mixed background in law, business management and mechanical engineering. He joined Tesla in 2011 as a corporate lawyer and steadily rose through the ranks within the legal department.

Butswinkas’s exit marks the latest in a long string of high-profile departures at Tesla over the past year.

Last month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk surprised investors in the final minutes of Tesla’s fourth-quarter earnings call with an announcement that the company’s long-time chief financial officer Deepak Ahuja was stepping down and would be internally replaced with a little-known 34-year-old rising star named Zach.

In 2018, Tesla lost more than 40 executives, according to a list compiled by Tesla short-seller Jim Chanos.

Here are some of the most high-profile exits from Chanos’ list:

Communications chief Sarah O’Brien left in September 2018 per a “planned departure” after two years with Tesla.

Chief accounting officer Dave Morton resigned in September 2018 following Musk’s go-private Twitter drama. He’d been on the job for less than a month.

Morton’s predecessor, Eric Branderiz, left in March 2018 after a year and a half on the job, citing personal reasons.

Chief people officer Gaby Toledano announced a leave of absence in August last year. A month later, she said she would not come back.

Lead engineer Doug Field left in July to join Apple’s autonomous driving project.

Treasurer and VP of finance Susan Repo stepped down in March 2018 after five years at Tesla to join enterprise software company Topia as CFO.

Head of autopilot Jim Keller left in April of last year to join Intel.

Tesla Has Lost Over 40 Execs in a Year, Including 2 Top Lawyers in 2 Months