Elon Musk ruthlessly cleaned house of any Tesla workers who disagreed or got in his way, a new book says

Elon Musk ruthlessly cleaned house of any Tesla workers who disagreed or got in his way, a new book says
Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Chris Saucedo/Getty Images for SXSW
  • A new book details numerous instances where Elon Musk appears to "rage-fire" employees.
  • The CEO created an environment where workers who disagreed with him were swiftly ousted, the book says.
  • In the past, Musk has denied allegations that he goes on such firing sprees.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has denied allegations in the past that he has a propensity for rage firing people, but a new book tells a different story.

"Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century," by The Wall Street Journal's Tim Higgins details numerous instances when the CEO appeared to fire employees and contractors out of sheer anger.

The book, released on Tuesday, reveals that Musk developed an atmosphere of fear in Tesla and SpaceX - an environment where the billionaire had a reputation for exploding at top executives and employees on the assembly line alike.

In 2006, ahead of Tesla's first Roadster reveal party, Musk had his head of marketing Jessica Switzer, as well as a public relations firm, ousted because he was unhappy with Switzer's decision to spend money on marketing. Higgins said Musk thought his name alone would be enough to incite interest in the vehicle.

Shortly after the executive's departure, Musk threatened to fire another PR which was later hired to take on the Roadster reveal, citing his anger over a New York Times story on Tesla that did not mention Musk.


"I was incredibly insulted and embarrassed by the NY Times article," Musk emailed the firm. "If anything like this happens again, please consider [your] relationship with Tesla to end immediately upon publication of such a piece."

Mark Goldberg, a Morgan Stanley banker that helped take Tesla public in 2010, told Higgins that Musk repeatedly threatened to fire bankers from Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs before Tesla's IPO launch in 2010.

"I don't have time for this," Elon Musk reportedly yelled during an episode. "I've got to launch the f------ rocket!"

Musk's fury caused several executives to leave the company, Higgins said. Peter Rawlinson, the executive leading the development of the Model S, left Tesla after a series of spats with Musk. Musk put pressure on CFO Deepak Ahuja and Rawlinson's key deputy Nick Sampson to bring Rawlinson back to the company. When they couldn't, Musk fired Sampson in a fit.

Later, Tesla found itself without the heads of its manufacturing department ahead of the Tesla Model 3 launch due to Musk's ire. The CEO went into a rage during a factory visit over issues with the Model X's window. When a worker on the assembly line proposed a solution, Musk lit into the worker's manager.


"This is totally unacceptable that you had a person working in your factory that knows the solution and you don't even know that," Musk reportedly said before firing the head of the factory.

Higgins writes that when an employee disagreed with the CEO they were often fired. For example, a paint shop manager was fired on the spot when he told Musk his production goals were not possible, and Kate Pearson, an executive in charge of delivery operations, was ousted for saying it was not feasible to hit Tesla's delivery goal of 100,000 during the quarter.

By 2017, Musk began flying to Tesla's Gigafactory to frequently address issues that often led to verbal spats. Longtime Tesla employees told Higgins Musk's fury was unpredictable and often focused on public humiliation.

"He'd always been quick to fire people, but it had historically been through managers, not in person," Higgins wrote. "Now it might be whomever he came across on the factory floor."

Tesla did not respond to Insider's request for comment. Ahead of the book's release, Musk disputed some of the claims in Higgin's book, calling them "false" on Twitter. Last month, Musk denied assertions he rage-fires employees, saying he gives "clear and frank" feedback.