While Tesla and Elon Musk are almost synonymous with each other, not many know that the popular EV company had five co-founders. And its first CEO wasn't Musk, it was Martin Eberhard. Eberhard founded Tesla in June 2003, though his time with the company ended in December 2007 over allegations of deception and fraud.
Despite his falling out with the Tesla board, Eberhard moved on and worked for other well-known companies like Volkswagen. He also founded Tiveni, Inc. in 2018. Here's a look at the fortune Eberhard amassed from his business ventures and why he received backlash from Musk despite his contribution to building the Tesla empire.
Martin Eberhard has a solid net worth despite leaving Tesla.
According to WeathyPersons, Eberhard has a net worth of around $500 million, which is a tiny fraction of Musk’s $190 billion net worth. Musk is the richest person ever in absolute terms. Apart from his stake in Tesla, Eberhard also derives his net worth from the other companies that he founded, particularly SpaceX.
While Martin will go down in history as the co-founder of Tesla, he was able to sustain his net worth given the roles he held after leaving the EV maker. Between 2009 and 2011, Eberhard served as the director of EVs for Volkswagen's Electronics Research Lab. Then, between October 2017 and July 2018, Eberhard was assigned the role of CTO of SF Motors Inc.
Co-founder of Tesla
Net worth: $500 million (estimated)
Martin Eberhard, who co-founded Tesla, has been at odds with the company's current CEO and the world's richest person Elon Musk. Since he left Tesla in 2007, Ebanhard has taken up several assignments. He also founded the battery company Tiveni.
Birthdate: May 15, 1969
Birthplace: Berkeley, Calif.
Education: Earned a bachelor's degree in computer engineering and a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois
Spouse: Carolyn Eberhard
Elon Musk isn't an original Tesla founder — Martin Eberhard is.
Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning were the original Tesla founders. However, the company needed funds and that’s where Musk came in with seed capital. In the initial days, Musk was in the backseat and Eberhard and Tarpenning were calling the shots.
Eberhard and Tarpenning didn't retain much of Tesla's shares and Musk eventually became the largest stockholder of the company. To be fair, Musk’s persona and smart decisions have played a key role in where Tesla has reached today. The company delivered almost 1 million cars in 2021 and is expected to end 2022 with an annual rate above 2 million cars.
What did Elon Musk say about Eberhard?
Musk has been critical of Eberhard in the past and said that he's the “worst person” with whom he has worked. He also tweeted that Eberhard’s role at Tesla was “glorified” while the problems associated with him were “whitewashed.”
Musk took a swipe at Eberhard by saying that none of the Tesla employees left when Eberhard was fired as the CEO in 2007 for “providing false information” to him and the company’s board. At one point, Musk even called called Eberhard “pure poison” in a Twitter thread. The tweet has since been deleted.
Musk’s relationship with top Tesla executives has been strained in the past and the company had a very high attrition rate. Also, Musk isn't pleased with Eberhard trying to take credit for building Tesla.
What is Eberhard doing today?
According to Eberhard's LinkedIn profile, he founded Tiveni, a battery company in 2018, and either left or ended it in December 2021. While he is still listed as a partner at Wardenclyffe Partners LLC, in January 2022 he updated his profile to "retired" and "enjoying life."