New Better Place CEO Leaving After 3 Months

Australian Evan Thornley quits the electric-car venture Better Place just three months after succeeding Shai Agassi as company leader.

CEO of Better Place Evan Thornley is quitting the company only three months after replacing former CEO and founder Shay Agassi, who was ousted by the board in early October.  

Thornley's depature comes after he led a major cost-cutting drive at the firm, and shaped a new business plan in parallel.

The Israel Corporation, which owns the biggest stake in Better Place, didn't like Evan Thornley's rehab plan for the stuttering company. As explained to investors, Better Place would no longer focus on cars with switchable batteries: It would serve cars with plugs. It also changed its deal with car leasing fleets.

Israel Corp. owns the largest share of Better Place - 28%. Idan Ofer, controlling shareholder of Israel Corp., directly holds another 8% of the shares and serves as its chairman.

After the surprise departure of Agassi, the electric-powered automobile infrastructure company lost its second big name a month later with the equally surprising resignation of deputy CEO Moshe Kaplinsky.

The company was searching for a new business model, and Kaplinsky's exit seemed to stem from disagreements with company chairman Idan Ofer, who controls the company through the Israel Corporation.

Heavy losses prompted the Better Place board to oust Agassi in early October. The company has not come close to meeting the performance targets presented to institutional investors in 2012. At that time, it anticipated a 23 million euro cash flow deficit for the entire year. But it ended up generating an 80 million euro deficit in the first half alone.

Electric car sales in Israel have also been a major disappointment. The company expected to sell 4,000 vehicles by June 2013. Through the end of October 2012, sales were less than one-eighth of that figure, totaling 490 cars, including only 33 in October. The 11 million-euro revenue figure for 2012 also seems remote; turnover in the first half was only 1.9 million euros.

Tomer Appelbaum