An employee lifts the hood of a Tesla Inc. Model S electric vehicle at the company’s showroom in Newport Beach, California, U.S. (Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

Tesla HR Chief Has Been on Leave of Absence During Musk's Tumult

(Bloomberg) -- Tesla Inc.’s head of human resources and facilities has been on a leave of absence as the electric-car maker has dealt with a period of intense tumult spurred by Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk.

Gabrielle Toledano, who joined Tesla as chief people officer in May 2017 from Electronic Arts Inc., confirmed she’s on leave when reached by phone Wednesday and declined to comment further. A Tesla spokesman said the leave was prompted by Toledano’s request and her duties are being handled by other members of the HR team.

Toledano, 51, is one of Tesla’s highest-ranking women. She reports directly to Musk and was among the handful of executives who stood on stage with him at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in June. A week later, Musk announced that the carmaker would dismiss more than 3,000 employees, or about 9 percent of its workforce, as part of a push for the profits that have largely eluded the company to date.

Musk stirred up weeks of controversy this month by tweeting he was considering taking Tesla private and had secured funding to do so. He abandoned the effort just 17 days later and now faces shareholder lawsuits and an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Tesla shares fell 2.2 percent Wednesday to $305.01, the lowest closing price since Aug. 1.

Management Turnover

Several senior executives have taken extended leaves of absences from Tesla in recent years. Doug Field, who had been senior vice president for engineering, went on leave in mid-May and didn’t return. His last official day with the company was June 27, and his departure was part of a spate of top management turnover earlier this year.

In 2015, Jerome Guillen, then Tesla’s vice president of worldwide service and deliveries, took leave but ultimately returned. He’s now leading Tesla’s Semi truck program and has played a key role in ramping up production of the Model 3 sedan.

Tesla director Steve Jurvetson, who’s also on the board of Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has been on leave from both roles since his November resignation from DFJ, the venture capital firm he co-founded.

During Toledano’s tenure, Tesla has struggled to ramp up production of its mission-critical Model 3 sedan, and the United Auto Workers campaigned to unionize the company’s sole auto assembly plant in Fremont, California. She played a role in the hiring of Laurie Shelby, Tesla’s first vice president of environment, health and safety, earlier this year.

Tesla has grown rapidly in recent years. At the end of 2010, the year of its IPO, the Palo Alto, California-based company had roughly 900 employees. Tesla acquired solar-panel installer SolarCity Corp. in 2016 and ended last year with 37,543 full time employees, according to its most recent annual report.

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