Milton Plans to Remain Top Nikola Owner After Lockup Expired
(Bloomberg) -- Trevor Milton said he remains committed to his Nikola Corp. holding and doesn’t plan to relinquish his position as its largest shareholder even though a restriction has been lifted, addressing speculation that he could divest of his stake in the company he founded and resigned from.
Milton is confident in Nikola’s long-term success, a spokesperson for him said via email late Monday. With his 33% stake, he could still sell millions of shares and remain the largest stockholder. The founder of the clean-energy trucking startup resigned as chairman amid fraud allegations in September.
The comments came after it emerged that Milton disposed of 3.2 million Nikola shares as part of three real-estate transactions made while he was still with the company.
Shares in Nikola rose as much as 2.5% to $18.91 in early trading in New York.
Nikola’s lockup period to sell stock expired on Nov. 30, enabling insiders and other early investors to sell. Nikola Chief Executive Officer Mark Russell, who owns shares in the company directly and through a joint entity with Milton called T&M Residual, told Bloomberg he recently agreed to extend a lockup on those shares along with several other unspecified strategic shareholders.
Nikola strategic partner Robert Bosch Gmbh cut its stake in the electric-truck startup to below 5% last week after the share lockup ended. The German company previously had reported a 6.4% stake in Nikola as of June 15.
As part of the real-estate deals, Milton’s M&M Residual LLC gave the shares on Dec. 3 to the sellers of three separate properties, including a $32 million ranch he bought in Utah, according to a person familiar with the matter. The stock, valued at $56 million, amounts to 2% of his holdings in the company, according to a regulatory filing.
A company spokeswoman did not comment on Milton’s share sale other than to say the real-estate transactions did not involve any “Nikola-related” property.
Milton has not sold off any of his current holdings. The real estate deals were completed in May before the company went public via a reverse merger with blank-check company VectoIQ.
That means Milton agreed to monetize some of his stake prior the public offering and before he stepped down. Milton left in September after short seller Hindenburg Research published a report accusing him of misrepresenting Nikola’s technology and amid accusations of sexual harassment. Milton and Nikola have denied the allegations of deception.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.