Under the terms of his separation agreement with electric vehicle manufacturer, Milton agreed to forfeit nearly 4.9 million in performance-based stock units worth roughly $166 million, as well as a two-year consulting deal with the company worth $10 million annually. The deal also allowed for the accelerated vesting of 600,000 restricted stock units Milton received last month.
Though no longer involved in Nikola’s leadership after the separation agreement, Milton remains the firm’s biggest individual shareholder, owning nearly a quarter of company shares. His stake in the company was worth roughly $2.7 billion as of Monday afternoon, according to Forbes.
“Nikola is truly in my blood and always will be, and the focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me,” Milton said in a statement. “So I made the difficult decision to approach the board and volunteer to step aside as executive chairman. Founding Nikola and growing it into a company that will change transportation for the better and help protect our world’s climate has been an incredible honor.”
Nikola shares plunged nearly 20 percent in trading Monday following news of Milton’s departure.
Milton faced intense scrutiny in recent days after the publication of a report by short-seller Hindenburg Research. The firm accused Nikola and its leadership of misleading investors about its technology and developing an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies over the course of its founder and executive chairman Trevor Milton’s career.”
In one instance, Hindenburg claimed that Nikola faked a January 2018 video that appeared to show the Nikola One semi-truck driving down a highway and “simply filmed it rolling down the hill.”
Hindenburg’s report was released shortly after Nikola announced a strategic partnership with General Motors. In the $2 billion deal, GM acquired an 11 percent stake in the electric vehicle maker and agreed to manufacture the Nikola Badger, a full-size pickup truck, using its own fuel cell and battery technology.
Nikola issued a rebuttal to Hindenburg’s claims and said it contacted the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to address the allegations. The SEC launched a probe to investigate the claims.
Stephen Girsky, GM’s former vice chairman and a Nikola board member, replaced Milton as chairman.