This week, JB Straubel, who leads Tesla Inc. and SpaceX, took on a second employer. Mr. Straubel, who lives in California, resigned from Tesla on December 19, just months after he joined AT&T as CEO of the newly formed blockchain and connectivity division.
Mr. Straubel, who designed the electric cars, spacecraft and satellite Internet service at Tesla, will head up the new group at AT&T. The venture, which was announced by the telecommunications company on Monday, is part of the $38 billion AT&T is paying to acquire WarnerMedia — AT&T’s $85 billion bid for Time Warner, including Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of CNN and TBS, and HBO.
The AT&T blockchain division, or new business unit, was created when Mr. Straubel accepted the job. He announced his departure from Tesla, which has been hit by a series of management shakeups, in an email to employees that was obtained by CNBC. “I am really looking forward to this new challenge and will miss everyone,” Mr. Straubel wrote.
Spokespeople for AT&T and Mr. Straubel did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Straubel’s Silicon Valley resume is thick. Before joining Tesla in 2000, he was the vice president of networking at Cisco Systems, where he helped develop the company’s series of routers, switching devices and Internet protocols. He also worked at Lycos, which was bought by Barry Diller’s IAC, and eBay, before joining Tesla.
Since joining the electric car company, Mr. Straubel has overseen multiple product lines and enormous growth. He was behind the Model S sedan, which were the most successful cars ever sold by Tesla. Now, Mr. Straubel is taking on the challenge of helping to help Uber raise money — and get its valuation, which has fallen dramatically since its last public funding round in 2016, higher.
By joining AT&T, he’ll have more power to influence digital media. He will report to AT&T’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, and his new role will be to “build next-generation capabilities for AT&T’s telecom, connected devices and enterprise businesses,” as the company said in a statement on Monday.
Mr. Straubel’s agenda will include “solving for next-generation devices and connected services, such as TV everywhere, Time Warner’s assets, machine learning, the Internet of Things, virtual reality, machine learning, wearables, enterprise applications and autonomous vehicles,” AT&T said. “He will also focus on building the foundation for AT&T’s long-term Internet platform initiative.”
Mr. Straubel is the second Tesla executive to go to another company in recent months. In November, Jeff Evanson, a technical expert who helped design Tesla’s Model 3, the latest, cheaper model of its car, resigned from the company, where he was executive director of test engineering.