Inside the troubled past of billionaire Nikola founder Trevor Milton

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Trevor Milton built a $2 billion fortune, but allegations of misbehavior, exaggeration, and dishonesty have followed him throughout his career.

  • Trevor Milton left Nikola after he was accused of lying and exaggerating about its products.
  • Insider spoke with 38 people who have worked for Milton or interacted with him.
  • Some said he has a long history of bending the truth.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Last summer, Trevor Milton was a newly minted billionaire with a startup that was more valuable than Ford. His company, Nikola, hoped to do for hydrogen-powered semi trucks what Tesla had done for electric sedans and SUVs.

But in September, Hindenburg Research, a financial-research firm that bets against companies it thinks have misbehaved, published a scathing takedown of Milton and Nikola, saying they had made a series of exaggerations and misrepresentations about the company’s products. Milton denied the allegations – although Nikola would later admit at least nine of them were true – but it set off a chain reaction that led to him stepping down from the company.

Where Milton had recently drawn comparisons to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, he now looked more like WeWork founder Adam Neumann, another ambitious, charismatic entrepreneur who left his company amid criticism over his behavior.

In August, Insider began talking to people who have worked for Milton or interacted with him, including friends, investors, and former employees.

Some said Milton has a long history of bending the truth that stretches back to the first startups he founded in his 20s. Milton, his critics say, has lied to boost his reputation, misled partners and coworkers about his companies’ products, and claimed he and his employees built parts they bought from suppliers.

“As you work closely with him, you begin to see that he struggles to tell the truth about anything,” a former coworker told Insider.

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Pete Buttigieg brought star power to the Transportation Department. Insiders explain how he’s winning over his new staff, the White House, and Republicans.

Hello everyone!

Welcome to this weekly roundup of stories from Insider’s Business co-Editor in Chief Matt Turner. Subscribe here to get this newsletter in your inbox every Sunday.

What we’re going over today:

pete buttigieg
Pete Buttigieg drinks a root beer float while talking with journalists as he walks through the Iowa State Fair August 13, 2019.

Hello!

This week was busy as ever, and we’ve got a ton of Insider deep dives to share with you today. But before we get to that, a look at what’s trending this morning:

Now, let’s get to it.


What Pete Buttigieg did next

From Adam Wren and Robin Bravender:

Rank-and-file Transportation Department employees saw their phones start blowing up the day President-elect Joe Biden announced that Pete Buttigieg was his pick to lead their agency.

One DOT staffer remembered being bombarded that December Tuesday with text messages, emails, and Facebook posts from friends who knew little about his actual job but were excited to hear that Buttigieg would be his boss. 

It’s not uncommon for political stars and former White House contenders to land in a presidential Cabinet, but they usually don’t call their new home the Transportation Department, a behemoth federal agency created during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration and whose portfolio includes pipeline safety, air-traffic control, and highway maintenance. 

Read the full story here:

Also read:


Black women CEOs and executives on their time in corporate America

Black women CEOs

From Jennifer Eum, Keishel Williams, Sawyer Click, and Taylor Tyson:

Across corporate America, the struggle to place women – especially Black women – at the helm of major companies continues. Paving the way forward are women like Thasunda Brown Duckett, who was just named CEO of retirement and investment manager TIAA. She will become only the fourth Black woman chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.

Duckett is one of 67 women featured in this collection of responses from influential Black businesswomen in America.

Insider asked these executives, from leading companies like Google, Salesforce, and Amazon, to reflect on their rise to the top, the struggle of being a Black woman in white corporate America, and the best career advice they’ve received. Their answers are raw and poignant, emotional and inspiring.

Read the full story here:

Also read:


Google’s superhuman hearing project

Wolverine
Wolverine

From Hugh Langley:

Alphabet’s moon-shots division, X, is quietly working on a top-secret augmented-reality device that would give people enhanced hearing abilities, Insider has learned.

The project, which is internally named “Wolverine,” is a nod to the comic-book mutant’s heightened sense of hearing, said four former employees familiar with the details, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The team started seriously working on the project in 2018, the sources said, and in that time it has gone through multiple prototypes and has gained the favor of executives like Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

 Read the full story here:

Also read:


Inside the downfall of Nikola founder Trevor Milton

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From Mark Matousek:

Trevor Milton’s star rose as Nikola raised a billion dollars in funding and assembled a blue-chip roster of partners and customers. By 2020, Milton, the serial entrepreneur who’d started four companies before Nikola and sold two of them, was being compared to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

But last June, Bloomberg was the first to report that the One prototype Milton unveiled in 2016 couldn’t drive under its own power. Three months later, Hindenburg Research, a financial-research firm that calls out companies it thinks have misbehaved, said Milton had a long history of bending the truth.

Milton denied the allegations, but they hung over him until, a little over a week later, he resigned from the company that made him a billionaire, before it delivered a single truck.

Read the full story here:

Also read:


Lastly, don’t forget to check out Morning Brew – the A.M. newsletter that makes reading the news actually enjoyable.

Here are some headlines you might have missed last week.

– Matt


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Read the original article on Business Insider