Better Place CEO resigns after three months

Sources say that the reason for Evan Thornley's departure from the electric car venture is differences with Idan Ofer.

January 16, 2013 19:42
2 minute read.
Battery switching station

Better Place 311. (photo credit: Shai Epstein)


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Better Place Inc. CEO Evan Thornley has resigned after just three months in the job. Sources said that the reason for his departure from the electric car venture is differences with Idan Ofer over Better Place's future, especially over plans to reduce activity in global markets and focus on its core markets of Israel and Denmark. .

Thornley was appointed CEO in early October 2012, after serving as CEO of Better Place Australia. He succeeded Shai Agassi, who was allegedly ousted from the company in a dispute with Better Place chairman Ofer. Thornley said at the time, "Four years ago, Shai asked me to join the Better Place mission and bring it to Australia. It has been my pleasure to lead that effort along with my colleague CEOs in Israel, Denmark and now the Netherlands. Today, it is an honor for me to step up and lead this fantastic global team on a day-to-day basis."

Thornley's first job as CEO was to present an urgent recovery plan for Better Place's Israeli operations, which were a condition for further financing. He presented the plan to the board of Israel Corporation (TASE: ILCO), Better Place's controlling shareholder, in December. The plan included sharp spending cuts, extensive layoffs, an expansion of activity in other countries, offering battery recharging services to other electric carmakers, and offering a new and cheaper plan to leasing companies.

Thornley's departure apparently indicates that the plan was not specific enough for Israel Corp. and Better Place's other investors.

Better Place has not yet announced the name of Thornley's successor. The company announced that Ofer will serve as executive chairman and manage the company's external relations and collaborations, and that CFO Alan Gelman will manage day-to-day operations.

Thornley's resignation will reportedly result in other executive changes at Better Place, including the resignation of executives in its international network, including its US spokesman.

Managerial pile-up

Ayalon Group chief strategist Yaniv Pagot said in response today, "The investment in Better Place is beginning to look more like an investment in a rollercoaster than an investment in an infrastructure for electric cars. If the company's new CEO is on his way out, we're talking about a managerial pile-up. The choice of Thornley was supposed to be a cardinal and dramatic decision, following the dramatic departure of the venture's guiding spirit - Agassi - and it could have been in done in a way that would ensure the company executive stability at a time when its business model was far from stable."

Pagot added, "Another break in Better Place's management chain will materially harm the company's ability to create a strong business model and win customers."

Commenting on the likely consequences of the replacement on Better Place's ability to raise capital, Pagot said, "The management shock will make it more difficult to finance the project, and is liable to increase the internal tensions between the various shareholders, are definitely displeased by the business situation the company has found itself in."

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