Tech

Yale's Sonnenfeld blasts Tesla, Facebook and Twitter boards for their 'fear of founder issues'

Key Points
  • Tech companies are increasingly having trouble controlling their founders, management expert Jeffrey Sonnenfeld says.
  • "We have boards that seem unable to direct genius founders," says the Yale School of Management senior associate dean.
  • Sonnenfeld pointed to Tesla's Elon Musk, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, ousted WeWork CEO Adam Neumann and Twitter's and Square's Jack Dorsey as examples.
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Tesla's board has a 'fear of founders' issue, says Yale's Sonnenfeld

Elon Musk's actions that landed him in a courtroom Tuesday are another example of how tech companies are increasingly having trouble controlling their founders, management expert Jeffrey Sonnenfeld told CNBC.

"We have boards that seem unable to direct genius founders," Sonnenfeld said on "Squawk Box." "That's the significance, how does a board reign in these Twitter tantrums?"

Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management, spoke ahead of the Tesla CEO's court appearance. Musk is set to address his tweets, from over a year ago, in which he allegedly labeled a British diver a pedophile.

The defamation case, Sonnenfeld said, shows "another one of these boards that has a fear of founder issue."

It's increasingly an issue in Silicon Valley, he added, pointing to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who has testified on Capitol Hill about privacy scandals, ousted WeWork CEO Adam Neumann and Twitter's and Square's Jack Dorsey, who said he's moving to Africa for six months.

Spokespeople for Tesla, Facebook and Twitter were not immediately available to respond to requests for comment.

Sonnenfeld has been critical of the Tesla CEO in the past. In July, he said Musk was using "diversionary moves" to distract investors from Tesla disappointments.

Musk often points to new product ventures — such as autonomous taxis or submarines — to keep attention away from Tesla's "demand saga, departure issues" and "debt issues," said Sonnenfeld at the time.

However, on Tuesday, he said the court case was distracting from the company's newly-announced Cybertruck, its first electric pickup. "Why distract with this kind of nonsense he gets into?"