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By Chris White
The founder of solar panel provider SolarCity is stepping down from his role with electric automaker Tesla later this year.
Lyndon Rive, who founded the much-maligned solar panel company with his brother Peter in 2006, told reporters Monday that he is leaving the massive electric car producer to create his own company. He also wants to spend more time with his family — Rive is CEO Elon Musk’s cousin.
Rive has served as head of sales and services for Tesla since last year.
“My skill set and what I love doing is starting and running companies,” Rive said. “I can hand off the baton to somebody else and give myself the opportunity to do something else that could also have another impact.”
Tesla told reporters that Cal Lankton, the company’s vice president of global infrastructure operations, will take over for Rive.
Analysts have argued for several months that last year’s Tesla-SolarCity merger is hurting the Silicon Valley car maker’s valuation on the market. Tesla investors criticized the merger at the time, complaining that incestual connections within the merger were ethically problematic.
SolarCity has been busy recently beating back accusations the company is hiding important financial records.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for instance, began a probe earlier this month into whether SolarCity has done enough to disclose to investors the number of customers who canceled contracts for solar energy systems, according to a May 4 report in The Wall Street Journal.
SEC’s investigation is the result of a growing amounts of criticisms from financial regulators who have grown increasingly concerned about SolarCity’s bizarre business model.
The solar panel provider, which leases its panels to customers, has reached long-term lease agreements with homeowners before they defaulted on the mortgages, according to a Feb. 22 report from The New York Times. There could be even more default cases, the report notes.
Mohammed Ahmed Gangat, a lawyer for beleaguered company, argued in September 2016 that the company needed to file a document late to a New York court because it had been “inundated” with thousands of lawsuits across the country, all of which named SolarCity as a defendant in foreclosure actions.
Rive’s departure comes a week after Tesla announced it would begin taking orders for its solar roof tiles, a new technology that Musk believes will help make solar panels a thing of the past.
Tesla said the product will be more expensive than conventional roof tops, and possibly more susceptible to damage from the elements, but will look better and ultimately pay for itself through reduced electricity costs.