Tesla Motors, once the best hope of Silicon Valley's nascent electric-car industry, is getting better known for manufacturing drama than vehicles. The company just saw its top marketer, Darryl Siry leave — allegedly after running his mouth about ex-employees.
Silicon Valley has a bit of an honesty fetish. But there's such a thing as being too honest, and that may have been Siry's flaw. Siry's a voluble sort; he blogs about cars and marketing. As a corporate flack, he's relatively forthright — which is fine when, say, arguing the technical merits of Tesla's $109,000 Roadster sports car, the preferred ride of geeks from Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis. But when it comes to talking about personnel matters, that bluntness may be what cost him his job — and Tesla millions of dollars.
Siry writes in his blog that he quit over "disagreements in strategy." But here's what two Tesla insiders claim: After Siry made comments in the press about the reasons why the company laid off or fired certain employees, some of them threatened to sue. It's not clear what, exactly, Siry said that was so incendiary, though back in January, he told a tech blog that some laid-off workers were "not the best on the team" — the kind of evaluation that could jeopardize a job search. Tesla, we're told, settled the lawsuits for $2 million — and told Siry it was time to motor on.
Update: Siry says he had no knowledge of any settlements and that he left for unrelated reasons. So why are two unrelated sources saying he did? Curiouser and curiouser.