Israel’s iconic CEO Shai Agassi has been fired from his position at the electric car company Better Place. He will be replaced by Evan Thornley, the current CEO of Better Place Australia. This news comes hot on the tracks of the company’s bold move to finally offer an attractive leasing/charge plan for its electric cars, and battery replacement service for long journies. Shareholders ousted Agassi according to local news reports.
In press announcements the company prepared Better Place says that Agassi will continue as a Board member and shareholder in the company he founded.
“Five years ago, I followed my passion to make the world a better place and founded a company to materialize that vision. Very few people are blessed to see such a grand vision become a proven reality within a relatively short time frame,” said Agassi. “I am proud of the Better Place people and the team that I am leaving behind who will take this company to the next chapter.”
“Under Shai’s leadership, we’ve successfully achieved our goals in the first chapter of Better Place, and we owe Shai our gratitude for turning his powerful vision into a reality,” said Idan Ofer, Chairman of the Better Place Board of Directors.
“It is almost five years to the day since Shai launched Better Place and a natural point in the company’s evolution to realign for its second chapter and for the challenges and opportunities ahead,” he continued. “Our board has long prepared to ensure that Better Place has a strong bench of talented executives in place to support the CEO and a clear succession plan to ensure a smooth leadership transition and we are fortunate to have such a strong leadership team within Better Place.”
Thornley will assume the global CEO role, effective immediately. Since joining Better Place in 2009, Thornley’s vision for the future of sustainable transportation in Australia helped to shape the 2020 roadmap embraced by the government and industry. He was instrumental in the creation of EV Engineering Ltd., a collaborative venture between global automotive leaders, to develop and create switchable-battery electric car technology. An entrepreneur at heart, Thornley founded one of the first Australian technology companies to be listed on the NASDAQ.
“Four years ago, Shai asked me to join the Better Place mission and bring it to Australia. It has been my pleasure to lead that effort along with my colleague CEOs in Israel, Denmark and now the Netherlands. Today, it is an honour for me to step up and lead this fantastic global team on a day-to-day basis,” said Thornley.
Update Oct, 3:
Agassi was fired amid massive financial losses, according to Haaretz headlines this morning. Unfortunately the link is not working and wonder if the article was published prematurely and taken down. We reported earlier this year that Better Place was bleeding capital: no surprise given its intense PR and marketing outreach to the global public. So could this be the reason for the Agassi let-go? The company isn’t opening up.
After launching in Israel a couple of months ago the public hasn’t caught on to the appeal of driving fully electric cars with switchable batteries and only about 500 cars in Israel have been sold, out of Better Place’s 100,000 car promise to Renault – the manufacturer of the electric EV. For the last couple of years celebrities and the public were happy for photo-ops test driving the cars, but they are less enthusiastic about buying them, given the high price and controlled rates at the charge stations. Some 10,000 to 20,000 cars need to be sold in order to make the company profitable. Some $750 million have been invested in it to date, along with a $40 million loan to complete charge stations in Denmark, and to run the Israeli operations.
I sincerely hope the new Australian CEO can fulfill the company’s vision.