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The CEO and founder of truck start-up company Nikola, who was forced to step down as executive chairman, is a college-dropout turned billionaire who set a Utah real-estate record, spending $32.5million on 2,670 acre ranch.
Trevor Milton, 39, says he was inspired by a Mormon mission trip to Brazil after leaving high school, telling outlets in June of this year he is a very faith-oriented CEO. His company makes electric hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles and trucks and acts as a rival to Tesla from its base in Phoenix, Arizona.
Milton, whose company become a darling of the stock market over the summer, resigned as executive chairman on Monday following accusations by short-seller Hindenburg Research on September 10 that he made false claims about Nikolas technology.
The Mormon raised Milton has so far avoided much of the spotlight, despite being named in Forbes 400 billionaires list earlier this month; he keeps his Instagram and Twitter pages private and rarely refers to his wife Chelsea, who he is thought to have wed in 2017.
But his Instagram profile reads: Husband to an amazing wife, Entrepreneur, Airplane Pilot & Dog Lover.
And Milton did tell the Hitting the Mark podcast in July that Nikola going public was the second biggest day of my life. He added: I tell people because the first day was when I got married, but the second day definitely was being listed on the Nasdaq.
He also appears to have shared pics of their wedding day online, posting on October 24, 2017: Cant believe I got to marry a woman that is much better than I am. It happened this weekend in Wyoming! Im now married!
Milton did tell the Hitting the Mark podcast in July that Nikola going public was the second biggest day of my life. He added: I tell people because the first day was when I got married, but the second day definitely was being listed on the Nasdaq
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The businessman also has detailed how his mothers death from cancer when he was just 14 affected him and his family life alongside a brother and three sisters.
Last year he told Trucks.com: From the time I was 6, my mother had cancer. I watched her cough up blood and eventually die. That’s when things got tough. [We] had to learn to survive as a family with a mother who was bedridden and a father who had to go to work 4-5 hours away. It was very tough, the toughest time of our lives, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I won the lottery, he says of parents Bill and Sally.
Milton, who spent a few years in Vegas as a child before moving back to Utah at the age of eight, left Utah Valley State College – now Utah Valley University – in Provo after barely a semester.
Despite that he describes a drive to succeed in business from an early age; Nikola is said to be his sixth business.
In June this year Milton, who is fluent in Portuguese, told FleetOwner.com: I was buying Almond Joy and KitKat candy bars 20 for $1, using $20 I got from my dad. Id sell them at school, and Id make a killing on it. Occasionally when Im in Vegas, Ill go back to my childhood house, and Ill drive by it. And Ill go to the school.
Im not one to ever get emotional, but whenever I walk through that school ground, almost every time Ill end up crying pretty hard. My mother died when I was 14, and every memory I had of that elementary school had to do with her. So I would get really emotional.
I dont even remember the principals name, but I do know that when I got caught, my dad and my mother were there telling him, You cannot punish a kid for this. Its why hes going to school. If you want to redirect it to someone else, give him a new challenge. Dont tell him he did wrong.
And that was the day that I learned my dad was going to be my best friend. So for that, Im eternally grateful for that guy.
In April of this year Miltons company, which he founded at 29-years-old and was valued at $3billion, received a multi-million dollar loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, a fund established by the White House and members of Congress as a lifeline to small businesses struggling through the coronavirus pandemic.
That despite his record breaking home purchase in November last year.
Nikola has argued that there is a difference between high valuation and having cash and that it needed the loan to continue paying its 300 employees.
Milton set a Utah real-estate record, spending $32.5million on this 2,670 acre ranch in November last year
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Milton told The Wall Street Journal of his new home: I feel like my generation is asset light, wants smaller everything and is moving to cities, which is the opposite of what I wanted in life. I enjoy the country, space, privacy and wildlife rather than skylights.
I wanted to create a sanctuary where I could live off the land. I plan on picking up multiple other properties like this one in order to preserve Utah and offer a sanctuary for my family, friends and others to enjoy.
Known as the Riverbed Ranch, Miltons 2,670-acre property includes a 16,800-square-foot mansion along the Weber River.
Located about a 25-minute drive from Park City, the Utah has eight bedrooms and 8.5 bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling walnut bookcases.
The house even has its own helicopter pad.
Described as having obsessive focus by Nikola president Mark Russell, Milton appears to have named his company after Nikola Tesla, the inventor and electrical engineer.
And his company has been regularly compared to and touted as a competitor for Elon Musks Tesla in the trucks space.
Milton, who spent a few years in Vegas as a child before moving back to Utah at the age of eight, Utah Valley State College – now Utah Valley University – in Provo after barely a semester
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Milton has fought back against the intricate fraud claims, even after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice said they were looking into the company.
Nikola shares were down 20 per cent in trading Monday, and have lost more than 45 per cent of their value since September 8, when it announced an alliance to build electric and fuel cell trucks with GM.
GM, which recently announced it would receive an 11 per cent stake in Nikola under a partnership, said in a statement on Monday it would work with Nikola to close the deal while stressing it was just one element of its electric vehicle strategy.
However, Hindenburg Research founder Nathan Anderson said in an email Monday that Miltons exit was only the beginning of Nikolas unraveling.
General Motors should carefully evaluate the potential long-term damage to its 112 year brand by continuing to tie itself to Nikola, Anderson wrote.
© Provided by Daily Mail Milton said of his home: I wanted to create a sanctuary where I could live off the land. I plan on picking up multiple other properties like this one in order to preserve Utah and offer a sanctuary for my family, friends and others to enjoy. © Provided by Daily Mail Described as having obsessive focus by Nikola president Mark Russell, Milton appears to have named his company after Nikola Tesla, the inventor and electrical engineer. And his company has been regularly compared to and touted as a competitor for Elon Musks Tesla in the trucks space
In a scathing report published just after the GM tie-up two weeks ago, short-seller Hindenburg Research said it had enough evidence to show Nikola and Milton made false claims about the companys proprietary technology to form partnerships with large automakers.
Hindenburg also alleged that Milton appointed his brother, Travis, to lead a unit in the company for which he did not have any substantial experience related to the sector.
Nikola said last week it was discussing the claims with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It has publicly rejected the accusations and threatened to take legal action against Hindenburg.
The Financial Times reported last week that the U.S. Department of Justice was also probing the claims.
Nikola founder Trevor Milton QUITS as chairman amid claims electric truck start-up is an intricate fraud that has misled investors about hydrogen-powered technology
Shares in electric and hydrogen-powered truck startup Nikola plunged on Monday after the companys founder resigned amid allegations of fraud - just two weeks after signing a $2 billion partnership with General Motors.
The company said late Sunday that Trevor Milton resigned and the departing executive chairman said he would defend himself against accusations that the company made false claims about its vehicles, allegations Nikola rejects.
Milton said in a message to Nikola employees that he was stepping aside because the focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me.
© Provided by Daily Mail In its lengthy report, Hindenburg claimed to have ‘extensive evidence’ that the company’s proprietary technology was purchased from another company, and accused its founder and CEO Trevor Milton (above) of making countless false statements over the last decade © Provided by Daily Mail Shares tumbled as much as 30 per cent on Monday in the wake of the news of Miltons stepping down
Shares in the company based in Phoenix, Arizona, tumbled 17% as markets fell broadly Monday. Shares of GM fell 5.2%. A report from Hindenburg Research from Sept. 10 said Nikolas success was an intricate fraud and based on an ocean of lies including a video showing a truck rolling downhill to give the impression it was cruising on a highway, and stenciling the words hydrogen electric on the side of a vehicle that was actually powered by natural gas.
Hindenburg said it had taken a short position in Nikola stock, which means it could profit if the stock goes down.
Nikola said it contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is looking into Hindenburgs allegations. News reports have said the U.S. Justice Department is investigating as well.
In a prepared statement, Nikola said the Hindenburg report was replete with misleading information and salacious accusations directed at our founder and chairman and had hired an attorney to evaluate potential legal recourse. It has said the video did not describe the vehicle as moving under its own propulsion and that the company does have working trucks.
© Provided by Daily Mail Gears and motors were missing, and while the words ‘H2 Zero Emission Hydrogen Electric’ were emblazoned on the vehicle, there was no fuel cell on board
Under the partnership announced with GM, the Detroit-based automaker would take an 11% ownership stake in Nikola and would engineer and build Nikolas Badger hydrogen fuel cell and electric pickup truck. GM said in a statement Monday that we acknowledge Trevor Miltons departure from Nikola and the decision of the Nikola board to move forward.
GM said it would go ahead and close the agreed transaction to seize the growth opportunities in broader markets with its fuel cell and battery systems, and confirmed it would build the Badger.
In exchange for the 10-year deal, GM was to get $2 billion worth of Nikolas newly issued common stock that will come in three increments through 2025. The deal gives GM another revenue stream for its hydrogen fuel cell, battery and electric vehicle research, positioning the company as a supplier to others who want to enter the market. It also helps to defray some of the huge capital costs of developing the new technology.
GM CEO Mary Barra said last week that GM has worked with a lot of partners before and a very, very capable team has done the appropriate dilligence on the Nikola deal.
Guidehouse Insights Principal Analyst Sam Abuelsamid said he doubts that GMs pursuit of partners led it to overlook potential shortcomings at Nikola. Auto companies, he said, often unveil concept vehicles that arent powered by the system theyre showing off, he said.
© Provided by Daily Mail The company was accused of staging a promotional video for its Nikola One truck that reportedly didnt have an engine
For example, the first versions of GMs Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid were powered by a golf cart motor, not a battery electric powertrain with a gas engine that takes over when the batteries are depleted. The things that Nikola is being accused of are things that automakers do all the time, Abuelsamid said.
News of the GM-Nikola deal on Sept. 8 sent shares of both companies surging despite a broader market downturn. GM has been under pressure from Wall Street to more quickly exploit its electric vehicle technology, while the GM deal gave the startup added credibility, according to analysts.
Under the deal, Nikola will be responsible for the sales and marketing of the Badger, built on GMs new battery electric truck underpinnings and using GM fuel cell and battery technology. GM also will supply batteries for other Nikola vehicles including heavy trucks.
Nikola said that former GM Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky, a member of the board, would replace Milton.
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