Elon Musk Loses OpenAI GC, SpaceX GC and Four Tesla GCs

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Tesla founder Elon Musk continues to see his legal counsel depart at his companies. Recently, attorneys at OpenAI and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. lost their general counsel.

OpenAI’s General Counsel Departs

OpenAI’s general counsel has left the company, according to Bloomberg Law.

David Lansky spent four years as the GC for OpenAI, the San Francisco-based artificial intelligence laboratory co-founded by Elon Musk. Lansky did not comment on his interactions with Elon Musk. But said he is excited to see what the company does next.

OpenAI received funding from other investors after Elon Musk withdrew from its board in February 2018. He cited potential conflicts of interest with Tesla, this electric car company. But Bloomberg reported in February 2019 that Elon Musk decided to exit OpenAI. There were disagreements about the company’s development, Tesla Inc.’s CEO said on Twitter.

Elon Musk OpenAI
Photo by Gertrūda Valasevičiūtė on Unsplash

Elon Musk said he has to focus on “a painfully large number of engineering & manufacturing problems” at Tesla & SpaceX. He added that he hasn’t “been involved closely” with OpenAI for more than a year. Elon Musk left the company’s board in February last year.

“I didn’t agree with some of what [the] OpenAI team wanted to do,” Elon Musk tweeted. he added that “it was just better to part ways on good terms.”

OpenAI will fill the GC with Jason Kwon, a former general counsel for startup accelerator Y Combinator. Kwon has been general counsel and chief sales officer for real estate startup ZeroDown since 2019. A former Goodwin Procter associate, he also has worked in-house at Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

SpaceX’s GC Leaves

Lansky’s departure comes after David Anderman quit the general counsel role at SpaceX Exploration Technologies Corp.

Anderman spent 16 years as in-house counsel for LucasFilm Ltd. before coming to SpaceX in the midst of its quest to become the first U.S. private company to send a crew into space.

Elon Musk controls SpaceX, a privately held aerospace manufacturer.

The company recently saw a successful landing of its newest and largest rocket. Observers valued the company at $74 billion earlier this year after a funding round led by Sequoia Capital Ltd. Other investors in the $850 million round included Valor Equity Partners, Coatue Management, D1 Capital Partners and Fidelity Investments.

Anderman’s LinkedIn profile says that he quit SpaceX in late 2020, and his website bio for Proxima Centauri LLC, a business consultancy that advises technology startups, says that he was the former general counsel at SpaceX.

Anderman started at SpaceX over a year ago id not discuss his departure when contacted by Bloomberg Law. The news outlet reported that SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment about Anderman’s replacement. Neither did other corporate lawyers at the company, including acting general counsel David Harris, former general counsel Timothy Hughes, and deputy general counsel Christopher Cardaci and Michael Sagan. Hughes has most recently been senior vice president for global business and government affairs at SpaceX.

Leadership Changes at Three Elon Musk Companies

Elon Musk now must address legal leadership transitions at three of the companies that he supports.

Tesla, Inc., with Elon Musk as CEO, has gone through a number of general counsel and has seen its fourth GC depart in 48 months.

Elon Musk personally interviewed in-house candidates during a time when the company burned through three legal chiefs before and after going public in June 2010.

Alan Prescott was recently hired as chief legal officer at lidar startup Luminar Technologies Inc. after more than a year as Tesla’s acting GC and vice president of legal. Prescott, who had been with Tesla for four years and became its GC in December 2019, will be Luminar’s chief legal officer, the company said in a statement. Before working at Tesla, Prescott was the senior counsel for the self-driving unit of Uber Technologies Inc.