Former Nikola CEO Trevor Milton mysteriously vanishes from Twitter
One day after his abrupt resignation from Nikola Corp., former Chairman and CEO Trevor Milton ghosted his Twitter followers and vanished from public view.
Why he did it is a bit of a mystery. But his disappearing act, to some, points to guilt or cowardice in the fallout from a report that accused the company he founded of “intricate fraud.”
Now Wall Street whiz and former General Motors exec Steve Girsky is at the helm as chairman of Nikola. His job is to clean up the mess and ensure that a lucrative 10-year deal with GM moves forward.
“This is a dangerous moment for Nikola and for Girsky,” said Eric Schiffer, CEO of The Patriarch Organization and Reputation Management Consultants. “The Nikola image is headed for the electric graveyard and its new chairman must reinforce confidence and prove to the public, and GM, thpany was not some giant fleece job and investors were not the suckers who bought the fake watch on the streetcorner.”
On Monday, Nikola announced Milton had quit. The news came after a Sept. 10 report by Hindenburg Research that accused Nikola of being an “intricate fraud.” Bloomberg has reported
that when Nikola showed its Nikola One semi-truck in 2016, Nikola falsely said that it was a working prototype even though it was non-running and missing essential parts.
More: Former GM exec to take the helm of Nikola in wake of controversy
Nikola has disputed the claim of fraud. But federal authorities are examining the allegations and Nikola’s stock price has taken multiple beatings. On Wednesday, the stock price closed at $21.15. That’s down from $37.57 on Sept. 10.
The bad publicity has cast a dark cloud over Nikola’s pending deal with GM. In that deal, GM will build the all-electric Nikola Badger pickup, due to market at the end of 2022, in exchange for $2 billion in stock and other cost benefits.
In a subtle move Tuesday, Milton deleted his Twitter account. The @nikolatrevor merely reads, “This account doesn’t exist.” And, just like that, he was gone.
A spokeswoman for Nikola confirmed Milton deleted his Twitter account, but she did not know why. She no longer represents him as he’s hired the prestigious Sard Verbinnen & Co. in New York.
Robert Rendine, Milton’s new rep, declined comment.
Milton is a billionaire who can afford a fancy public relations firm. While he agreed to hand over about $166 million of equity and a two-year, $20-million consulting contract as part of his resignation, he keeps $3.1 billion in stock, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange filing.
He may also need that PR firm in light of the recent bad publicity, a federal investigation and his sudden vanishing, industry observers said.
It is likely Milton was attracting ongoing negative commentary to his Twitter account, even if he wasn’t posting or otherwise interacting with users, and that is why he got off it, said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com and Forbes Autos Contributor.
“Removing his account keeps people from posting about Nikola and tagging him in the post,” Brauer said. “He also might have had past posts he doesn’t want people to see. Of course, with an SEC investigation in progress, that may or may not cause more problems.”
There were indeed some snarky comments posted to Milton’s Twitter feed. One post asked him, “Are you going to plead insanity like Elizabeth Holmes?”
That’s in reference to a report that Holmes, the disgraced founder of fake blood-testing company Theranos, might argue that she was suffering from a “mental disease” when she allegedly defrauded investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Whatever the reason, Milton’s departure from Twitter further damages his and the company’s reputation, Schiffer said.
“The message says he can’t take the heat and may actually be guilty,” Schiffer said. “Contrast his actions with his Sept. 10 tweet that ‘cowards run.’ Many people may now see him as a coward, a hypocrite and a confirmation that they may have been conned, the opposite of what he wants to message.”
While the “optics of the resignation are terrible,” the outcome is in the best interest of Nikola, wrote Jeffrey Osborne in a rese…
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