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(Reuters) – SolarCity founder Lyndon Rive, who steered the dramatic growth of the biggest U.S. residential solar company before driving its sale to Tesla, is leaving the electric vehicle maker in June, he said on Monday.
In an interview, the former SolarCity chief executive said he wanted to start a new company next year and spend more time with his family. Rive had been serving as head of sales and services for Tesla’s energy division since last year.
Rive’s responsibilities will be distributed among Tesla leadership, Tesla said.
Tesla acquired SolarCity for $2.6 billion in August, paving the way for Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s ambitious plans for a carbon-free energy and transportation company. The sale came as investors worried about the solar panel installer’s debt-fueled growth.
Under Tesla, SolarCity has slowed installations and focused on the most profitable projects that generate cash upfront.
Throughout his decade at the helm of the company, Rive had a populist vision of making rooftop solar energy affordable to all in an effort to curb demand for fossil fuels and combat climate change.
Rive, 40, said SolarCity was “healthier than it’s ever been,” and the time had come for him to move on.
Tesla launched its innovative solar roof tiles last week, a product that generates electricity without traditional rooftop panels.
Rive said he began to consider leaving a few months ago.
“My skill set and what I love doing is starting and running companies,” Rive said. “I can hand off the baton to somebody else and give myself the opportunity to do something else that could also have another impact.”
Cal Lankton, Tesla’s vice president of global infrastructure operations, will take on an expanded role as head of sales and operations for energy products, the company said.
Rive co-founded SolarCity with his older brother Peter in 2006 with financial backing from their cousin Musk. Peter Rive, who was SolarCity’s chief technology officer, will remain to focus on the company’s solar roofs.
Over the next decade, SolarCity expanded rapidly with innovative no-money-down financing schemes and a vast sales and installation operation. The company in 2013 aimed to have 1 million customers by 2018, but scaled back its plans at the end of 2015 as costs for funding that growth mounted and demand began to slow. SolarCity hit 300,000 customers late last year.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom, editing by Peter Henderson and Richard Chang)
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