Tesla replaces general counsel Dane Butswinkas after two months

Key Points
  • Tesla General Counsel Dane Butswinkas is leaving after two months on the job.
  • He will be replaced by Tesla's vice president of legal, Jonathan Chang.
Tesla general counsel leaves after 2 months on the job
Tesla general counsel leaves after 2 months on the job

Tesla is replacing its general counsel, Dane Butswinkas, the company said Wednesday. Jonathan Chang, Tesla's current vice president of legal, will take over Butswinkas' position, effective Wednesday.

It is yet another executive departure for Tesla, which has seen a great deal of turnover in its ranks over the last several years. Most recently, CFO Deepak Ahuja said he will be leaving the company, after serving his second stint with the electric car maker.

This is likely more evidence that Tesla is not a company for everyone and that Elon Musk is a tough boss, said Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures.

"He's in a one in a billion type of person," Munster said. "And this is yet further evidence. And I think that is the biggest challenge that the company has — retaining top talent."

Chang, who is 40 years old, has been with Tesla for eight years. He most recently oversaw legal issues relating to securities, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, compliance, and sales in the U.S. and Europe, Tesla said. He has been involved in Tesla's efforts to overturn state laws prohibiting the direct sale of cars to customers across the United States. He will report directly to CEO Musk.

Tesla shares were down nearly 1 percent midmorning Thursday.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity over the past seven months to have worked with both Elon and Tesla, first as outside counsel and most recently as General Counsel at Tesla. I am returning to my home in Washington, DC and to my trial practice at Williams & Connolly," Butswinkas said. "I look forward to continuing my work with Tesla in an outside counsel role. I have observed and have tremendous confidence in Jonathan's leadership skills and in the Tesla team. When I joined the company, I said it would be hard to identify a more timely or essential mission than Tesla's—that's as true today as it was then."

Butswinkas left after just two months on the job. A person familiar with the matter said he was not a good cultural fit with Tesla and wanted to return to his family and law practice in Washington, D.C.