Nikola CEO Mark Russell will retire at the end of the year, the floundering electric and Hydrogen fuel cell vehicle maker announced Wednesday morning, sending its stock surging in pre-market trading.
Russell will be replaced January 1, 2023, by Michael Lohscheller, the head of Nikola Motors and former CFO of Volkswagen’s North America division.
Shares of Nikola rose 5.6% to $7.35 in pre-market trading Wednesday, still down a whopping 88.8% from its all-time high of $65.90 in June 2020.
Russell replaced Nikola founder Trevor Milton as the company’s top executive after Milton resigned in September 2020 following fraud accusations.
Nikola went public on June 4, 2020, at $37.55 per share before surging 75% within a week of trading. Briefly hailed as a rival to Tesla, the company’s fall from grace was just as swift as its meteoric rise. In September 2020, short-seller Hindenburg Research released a report accusing the company of being an “intricate fraud” propped up by lies from Milton. Nikola agreed to pay a $125 million fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission last December related to the accusations of intentionally misleading investors.
Russell was briefly a billionaire when Nikola’s stock traded at over $60, and Forbes calculated his stake in the company was worth over $1.3 billion on June 12, 2020. That same stake is now worth about $150 million.