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Faraday Future loses another founding executive Signs of an exodus are growing

Wed Oct 11, 2017 5:32 pm

Is this the end this time or will they come back again?
Faraday Future loses another founding executive
Signs of an exodus are growing
By Sean O'Kane on October 5, 2017 1:28 pm

Photo: Phil Esposito / The Verge
A second founding executive has left ailing electric car startup Faraday Future. The Verge has learned that Tom Wessner, the head of Faraday Future’s supply chain management, resigned from the company yesterday. FF has confirmed his resignation.

Wessner was one of the five initial executives brought in to run specific parts of the company by its cofounders Nick Sampson, Tony Nie, and Jia Yueting in 2015. Another, Alan Cherry, left in August. And like Cherry, Wessner once worked at Tesla. The other three executives — Dag Reckhorn (manufacturing), Richard Kim (design), and Sampson (R&D) — are still with the company.

FF has fumbled in the past, but it’s been reeling since this summer when the assets of Jia Yueting were frozen by the Shanghai High People's Court. Yueting, or “YT” as he’s known to employees, is the main investor of Faraday Future, and has been running the company for months without a true CEO in place. (Former BMW executive Stefan Krause has also been handling many internal and public-facing duties while also seeking new investments.)

As soon as YT’s money dried up, FF started a new slide. The company backed out of its ambitious plan to follow Tesla into Nevada with a $1 billion factory of its own, and instead had to turn its sights on the lease of a smaller facility in California. And it was only able to do so after putting its Los Angeles headquarters up as collateral.

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As it tries to save money, the company has also pulled almost completely out of Formula E, which — in the absence of a facility to begin work on company's first production car, the FF91 — was one of the only sources of pride for employees, according to multiple people inside and outside the company.

Without a car, or a motorsports effort, or its own factory, one of the only major assets remaining at FF is its talent. The company has boasted a roster full of Tesla, BMW, Audi, and even Apple expats since its earliest days. It’s one of the few things that could help turn the company around, either by swaying new investors, or making a partnership or acquisition attractive to other automotive manufacturers. (This is something the company is also exploring, The Verge has learned.)

This most recent turmoil could spark a new exodus that would doom those Hail Mary ambitions. In addition to Wessner, Alan Cherry, the head of HR and another one of the company’s co-founders, left in August. J.J. Luranc, the director of global logistics, left in September according to his LinkedIn page. Nate Schroeder, FF’s head of motorsports, left the company in July.

And multiple people who work directly on the FF91 have departed as well, according to LinkedIn. Rodrigo Caula, who worked on the color, material, and finish of the FF91, took off (for Tesla) in August. Michael Snyder, a manufacturing engineer, left for Amazon. Blake Rosengren, whose page says he ran the Pikes Peak effort and was responsible for the “original FF91 car concept engineering layout,” left in August as well. Jui Dai (a UX designer), Arash Badeanlou (a senior exterior designer), and Eric Lopez (a surfacer and painter) all left FF within the last two months.

“The US employees that remain either don't (yet) have an offer elsewhere, are title bump hungry (interesting how suddenly there's allot of "Sr." level everyone) or delusional - or a combination of all three,” one former employee tells The Verge.

Wessner was considering leaving earlier this summer, according another former employee, but then he received a promotion from vice president to senior vice president of global supply chain. At least three others have received similar titular promotions, according to LinkedIn.

“Morale is tanked. No one is in the office ever. They keep bringing in investors, but no one invests,” the former employee says, adding that most of those potential investors are simply friends of YT. His grip on the company is so tight that he has FF staff doing everything from designing a car for his other company, LeEco, to operating his social media accounts, they say. “[The] company is a sinking ship.”

FF says that it has new talent coming in that will help fill some of these gaps. Michael Cooperman, who describes himself on LinkedIn as a “crisis management expert,” will run the company’s communications team. FF will also soon announce that it has hired a new global head of tax, Caroline Banzali.

Banzali has been with the company since at least August, according to emails obtained by The Verge through a California Public Records Act request. She fills a spot that was vacant for so long that FF actually missed an April deadline for submitting documents related to state tax credits, a mistake that could have cost the company millions down the road. Luckily for FF, though, the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development accepted the documents in late August, according to the emails.

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