Nikola Motor's listing gives billionaire founder a chance to 'out-Elon' Musk

Nikola's $12 billion Nasdaq debut is a boost for hydrogen trucks and its founder Trevor Milton's fortune.
The Phoenix-based company designs and manufactures electric components, drivetrains and vehicles including the Nikola One and Nikola Two electric semi trucks. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@nikolamotor)
The Phoenix-based company designs and manufactures electric components, drivetrains and vehicles including the Nikola One and Nikola Two electric semi trucks. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@nikolamotor)

A combination of Red Bull, antioxidant water and liquid minerals fueled Trevor Milton’s preparation for Thursday’s listing of Nikola Corp.

“Late night at the office reviewing paperwork and preparing for the second biggest day of my life (1st was my wedding)," he tweeted at 4:14 a.m. on June 4. “Ready for tomorrow! Big interviews. Big day."

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Milton’s excitement proved apt. Between a hectic schedule of media interviews, his hydrogen-truck maker closed its first day of trading with a $12 billion market value after completing a reverse merger with the acquisition firm VectoIQ earlier in the week.

That sharp rise -- Nikola was valued at around $3 billion in a 2019 fundraising -- has catapulted its founder into the ranks of the world’s richest people. Regulatory filings indicate Milton owns 35% of Nikola, giving him a net worth of $4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Nikola’s press office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Milton founded Nikola in 2014. The Phoenix-based company designs and manufactures electric components, drivetrains and vehicles including the Nikola One and Nikola Two electric semi trucks. It plans to use solar power to split water into hydrogen that can be used to usurp diesel as trucking fuel.

Even before the listing, Milton had secured investments from companies including CNH Industrial NV. The U.S. unit of brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA placed an order for up to 800 trucks from Nikola in 2018.

Nikola’s mission, business and name has drawn inevitable comparisons to Elon Musk. Tesla Inc., whose name also is derived from inventor Nikola Tesla, is building an electric Semi model, and the two executives have sparred on Twitter.

“There’s very few people that can out-Elon in this world and I’m one of them," Milton told a recent interviewer. “Nikola is the pioneer in heavy-duty trucking and Tesla’s just really following in our footsteps."

First Published Date: 06 Jun 2020, 08:15 AM IST
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