Quick! Name Tesla’s COO.
You can’t. Because it was a trick question. Tesla ( does not have a COO. And some financial experts think that’s a big deal, especially when there are so many questions about the company’s future. )
Tesla lists as its only chief technology officer and chief financial officer, along with Musk top managers. Musk is also the company’s product architect.
“I look at Tesla and I see a genius in Elon Musk. But who is the general?” said Mariann Montagne, senior portfolio manager at Gradient Investments.
Having another high profile leader that Wall Street respects like Sheryl Sandberg Facebook ( for example, it could give Musk the freedom to innovate and take risks. In the meantime, the COO could run the company’s operations and let investors breathe a sigh of relief. )
Now that Tesla is worth about $60 billion, another executive may be needed — more than GM ( and )Ford ( and make Tesla the most valuable American car company. )
“A strong COO at Tesla would probably be a positive move because, as CEO Elon Musk said, it is finally a ‘real car company,'” said Craig Birk, chief investment officer at Personal Capital.
Tesla did not respond to requests for comment on why it does not have a COO.
Others also wondered why Musk didn’t have a COO or other prominent executive to help him.
“Does every company need a specific COO? Not necessarily. But they have to have someone to tell the CEO when things go wrong,” said John Wilson, head of research and governance at Cornerstone Capital Group.
“Is there any CEO control? Musk’s behavior shows that there is not,” Wilson added.
The absence of a COO is even more troubling to some because Musk is, to put it mildly, a very busy man.
“Musk has a lot of different irons in the fire,” said Tom Plumb, CEO of Plumb Funds, referring to the two other companies he runs — SpaceX and The Boring Company — and the many other things on his plate.
Having a COO can also reassure investors that there is a succession plan in place should Musk decide to step down to focus more on these other initiatives.
Other successful founder-led companies have developed deep management benches. Google, now known as Alphabet, for example, brought in tech veteran Eric Schmidt as CEO before its IPO. Microsoft’s Bill Gates had Steve Ballmer take over and then Satya Nadella.
Having a trusted COO could also be helpful in case Musk ever runs into health problems.
Apple ( CEO Tim Cook was COO for several years under Steve Jobs. This meant there was a clear succession plan once Jobs, who died in 2011, was no longer able to serve as CEO. )
What’s more, Jobs was the CEO of the Pixar animation studio until it bought him Disney ( and at the same time served as CEO of Apple. If Jobs hadn’t had Cook by his side, Wall Street might have been more concerned about Apple’s leadership void. )
Kind of like how Tesla investors are now worried that Musk might spread himself too thin and that there’s no one else to step in and run the company.
CNNMoney (New York) First published August 16, 2018: 1:25 pm ET