Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard is suing Elon Musk and Tesla Motors for a slew of reasons including allegations of libel, slander, and a breach of contract.
The complaint says that Eberhard founded the company, then brought in Musk as an investor. Musk then set out to take control of the company and pushed Eberhard out.
Not content with just taking over the company, Musk went on to trash Eberhard in the pages of USA Today, Newsweek and elsewhere. Musk allegedly wanted to rewrite history and make it seem like he founded Tesla. There are repeated instances in the press of Musk being referred to as the founder of the company, when in fact he is not.
In many interviews, Musk made it seem like Eberhard was causing delays in constructing the Roadster. Eberhard’s complaint alleges otherwise:
“Musk took persistent and distracting interest in random details of marginal importance, such as wasting valuable resources and time on research on installing electronic door latches, rather than conventional door latches. The results were ever increasing delays in the Roadster’s production, as well as sky-rocketing expenses.”
While Musk went on the record repeatedly to trash Eberhard, Eberhard had a non-disparagement clause in his contract, so he couldn’t say anything about Tesla or Musk. He wrote one critical blog post on the company’s treatment of ex-employees, which he took down after being told it violated the non-disparagement clause.
If that’s not enough, Eberhard was promised the second Tesla Roadster to be produced. He didn’t get it, a friend of Musk received that car, which will probably be quite valuable as a collectors item down the road. Instead, Eberhard received a Roadster that was wrecked. “The car was delivered only after it had been smashed into the back of a truck by a Tesla Motors employee during a so-called ‘endurance test’ conducted on the dense and public highway 101.” That car needed 75 parts to be fixed.
Tesla also refused to pay severance pay and back options due, a breach of contract, says Eberhard in the complaint.
Tesla’s response to the suit:
This lawsuit is an unfair personal attack and, more importantly, paints an inaccurate picture of Tesla’s history. This lawsuit is a fictionalized account of Tesla’s early years — it’s twisted and wrong, and we welcome the opportunity to set the record straight. As the media have already covered exhaustively, Tesla’s full board of directors unanimously fired Martin shortly after discovering that the cost of the car was more than twice what Martin portrayed it to be at the time. Incidentally, Tesla will likely be filing counterclaims and in the process present an accurate account of the company’s history.
Jalopnik, first reported the news, as near as we can tell.
Image: SFGate. Eberhard, right, with co-founder Marc Tarpenning.