Better Place board ousts Shai Agassi as CEO

Agassi will be replaced by Evan Thornley, CEO of Better Place Australia, but will retain his seat on the board.

The board of electric car venture Better Place has removed founder Shai Agassi as CEO of the global company. He will be replaced by Evan Thornley, CEO of Better Place Australia, who has been appointed CEO of the global company. Agassi will continue as a board member and shareholder in the company he founded.

Better Place has accumulated a loss of $490 million since it was founded. Israel Corporation (TASE: ILCO), which owns 32% of the venture, bears a loss of some $160 million. At the end of the second quarter, Better Place had $73 million cash, and it subsequently obtained a €40 million credit line from the European Investment Bank.

"I too would be glad to know when we will start making a profit from Better Place," said Israel Corp. president and Nir Gilad in late August. Israel Corp.'s share price rose by more than 5% just before the announcement of Agassi's removal; the rise has moderated since.

“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 Better Place. “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. 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.

“In his four years as CEO of Better Place in Australia, Evan has built an impressive track record, particularly around establishing a strong set of industry partners there. Evan brings the right combination of entrepreneurship and coalition and team building to take Better Place to the next level,” Ofer continued. Thornley will assume the global CEO rolee immediately. “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,” Thornley said. “We have the only fully integrated charge network platform in the world that’s live and operating and serving satisfied customers. We start the second chapter with a tremendous strength of global investors and management team. Our relentless focus now is to grow and satisfy a global customer base and build powerful industry partnerships.”

“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.”

Agassi circulated a letter to Better Place employees, in which he wrote, "This month, five years ago, we announced in New York the formation of Better Place. At the time, we were viewed as an audacious plan that was mocked by most people in the industry. Today we are no longer a plan, but a reality - one that drives millions of miles on the roads of two countries.

"This physical network will realize the dream of taking countries and the world off their dependency on oil.

"The next chapter in this historic book written at Better Place I leave for you, dear people full of drive, to write on your own.

"I will continue this journey as a board member and a large shareholder in Better Place, but no longer as CEO. I am proud of all that we have accomplished together over these years, the incredible change that we drove, the proof that no one can dispute - An electric car with a switchable battery is the future. And the future was invented here, by all of us.

"Evan and Kaplan had been a significant part of this road over the last four years. They were entrusted as managers of this company by our board. I wish them and my fellow board members the best of luck as we face the tremendous challenges ahead of us. "

Better Place was founded by Agassi in 2007, with the aid of venture capital funding of $200 million. Under the company's business model, customers lease the batteries in its electric cars, and can swap them at battery changing stations, thus extending the range of the cars between charges.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on October 2, 2012

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2012

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