Baillie Gifford praises Tesla’s new leadership, says new CFO is great fit for Elon Musk

Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) second-largest shareholder, Baillie Gifford, has been consistent with its support of the electric car maker, with James Anderson, a senior partner at the firm, even calling out the unethical activities of the company’s critics last year. Anderson spoke about Tesla again recently during an interview with Barron’s, where he discussed his insights on the company’s current leadership.

Anderson is among the investment world’s most prominent players, overseeing about half of the $37 billion Vanguard International Growth Fund (VWIGX), together with Baillie Gifford’s Tom Coutts and a team from Schroders. During his interview with the publication, Anderson talked about a meeting he had with Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm, whom he met following another interview where he stated that he wouldn’t be against Elon Musk leaving the CEO post and taking another role in the company.

“I went to see Tesla and met with the new chair. You can imagine we discussed this. It was plain to me that Tesla needed to strengthen some of the other voices on the board and encourage a greater degree of understanding on the part of Mr. Musk about his responsibilities. The new chairman made it clear she regards him as a good chief executive,” he said.

Anderson emphasized that Tesla is being led by a stronger team today. He took particular note of Amazon alumnus Sanjay Shah, who has a clear view of the company’s battery and energy front. The Baillie Gifford senior partner also praised Tesla’s new CFO, Zach Kirkhorn, for his close working relationship with Elon Musk. “I like the chief financial officer, who, although young, has the kind of relationship with Musk that allows him to tell Musk things,” Anderson said. 

Kirkhorn took over the CFO duties of Deepak Ahuja, who announced his retirement (for the second time) following the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. The 34-year-old Kirkhorn’s appointment as Tesla’s CFO proved polarizing, with Tesla critics taking issue with his age and supporters of the company praising him for his years of experience with the company. Despite his age, Kirkhorn has worked for Tesla for years, starting since the days of the original Roadster.

Since his appointment, the new CFO has been visible, participating in Tesla’s first quarter earnings call and joining Elon Musk in an investor call following the company’s announcement of a capital raise. During these sessions, Kirkhorn proved active, responding to inquiries directly in the Q1 earnings and explaining Tesla’s guidance during the investor call.

Apart from providing his insights on Tesla’s leadership, Anderson also noted that Tesla could have raised capital during a far more ideal position. Despite Tesla holding its capital raise at a time when its stock is significantly down, the Baillie Gifford senior partner noted that they remain supportive of Tesla nonetheless. “Ideally, we prefer companies to raise capital when confidence and share prices are high; otherwise they have to issue more shares to raise the same amount of capital. Obviously, Tesla’s share price today is considerably lower than it was eight or nine months ago, but we remain supportive shareholders,” he said.

As of writing, Tesla stock is trading +2.35% at $232.35 per share.

Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.

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