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Tesla shares drop sharply after Musk says CFO Ahuja is leaving the company — for the second time

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images Deepak Ahuja, Tesla CFO (left) and Elon Musk, Tesla founder and CEO (right), at the Nasdaq opening bell ceremony for the Tesla initial public offering on Tuesday, June 29, 2010.

Tesla's long-time chief financial officer, Deepak Ahuja, is retiring from the company after almost 11 years, CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday.

It's the second time Ahuja has resigned from the company. He was one of Tesla's longest serving executives when he first left in 2015. Ahuja rejoined Tesla in 2017, replacing then-CFO Jason Wheeler, who abruptly resigned.

Shares of Tesla fell about 5 percent after the markets closed Wednesday night.

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Moving into the CFO role at the electric vehicle maker is Zach Kirkhorn, previously the company's vice president of finance. Ahuja said, "I feel really good about Zach taking over. He's proven his self over the years with many tough challenges he's worked on."

Musk announced the change at the end of a conference call with analysts discussing the company's fourth-quarter earnings results.

Kirkhorn said, "I've been deep in the operations of every major program of the company from Roadster to…scaling our energy business and more things to come. I feel we're starting 2019 with a very strong financial foundation. We have enough cash to start new programs and develop new technologies." Prior to his joining Tesla in 2010, Kirkhorn was a business analyst at McKinsey & Co.

Kirkhorn has quickly ascended to the role of CFO, especially at a company with a market capitalization over $50 billion.

A former Tesla employee said Elon Musk ignored Kirkhorn's prudent financial advice at least once. The CEO wanted to allocate some $7 million to an automation project at the company's Fremont factory. Once Musk forgot about the appealing new equipment, which Kirkhorn had viewed as non-essential, the funds were used to cover overages on other projects already under way.

On the earnings call Wednesday, Musk said Ahuja will "continue to be at Tesla for a few more months, and will continue to serve as a senior adviser to Tesla for years to come."

Ahuja first joined Tesla as CFO at the worst possible time: July 2008. He was with the company when it went public in 2010.

Tesla's finance team has seen high turnover in the past year with one chief accounting officer, Dave Morton, spending less than a month at the company.

Other long-time veterans have been resigning from Tesla in the past six months, including Charles Mwangi, a senior director of engineering who had been with Tesla since 2012, and one of Tesla's first-ever sales hires, Jeremy Snyder, who left his role as head of global business development there in August, according to his LinkedIn profile.

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