High-powered electric-car startup Tesla Motors has hit a speed bump with the filing of a lawsuit by former CEO and founder Martin Eberhard.
The libel suit, filed on May 26 in San Mateo County, Calif. Superior Court, alleges current CEO Elon Musk falsely portrayed himself as the founder of the company and orchestrated Eberhard’s ouster as original CEO in 2007. In the lengthy 22-page document, Eberhard accuses Musk and Tesla of, among other things, libel, slander, breach of contract, negligence and failure to pay wages. The suit doesn’t even refer to Musk as a co-founder, but simply as one of “various investors,” who joined the Tesla board in April 2004.
Eberhard’s suit claims that from the moment he came on board, Musk “began a campaign to appropriate control of Tesla Motors and Eberhard’s legacy as the company’s founder and visionary.” The suit further alleges that Musk “began a pattern and practice of defaming and disparaging Eberhard in various widely distributed media outlets,” a few of which included The New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today and NPR.
Musk has responded to the accusations in a lengthy blog posting on Tesla’s corporate website. According to Musk, the posting is an attempt to “correct several misconceptions propagated by Eberhard that are now being reported as truth.”
While claiming he was “pushed out of the company he founded,” Eberhard agreed to leave because he felt it was “in the best interest of Tesla” and that he hoped his “vision for the company would be realized and his spirit would continue even in his absence.” Something Eberhard now feels never happened.