Tesla's Musk to stay CEO through Model S launch

LOS ANGELES, June 30 (Reuters) - Tesla Motors Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Tuesday that he will remain in the company’s top job at least through the 2011 launch of its second model, an electric sedan known as the Model S.

Musk, an entrepreneur whose ventures, in addition to Tesla, include space exploration company SpaceX and solar power company Solar City, said staying on as Tesla's CEO was a requirement for securing the company's recent 10 percent investment from Germany's Daimler AG DAIGn.DE.

“I didn’t really have a choice. This was a requirement of Daimler that I remain CEO of Tesla through the Model S launch and then continue to be part of Tesla in a chairman role beyond that,” Musk said in an interview.

“It’s flattering, but at the same time it’s golden handcuffs,” he added.

Musk made hundreds of millions of dollars as the co-founder of online payment service PayPal, which was sold to eBay Inc EBAY.O in 2002. He is among the original founders of Tesla, which has had three CEOs in the last two years.

One of those former CEOs, Martin Eberhard, sued Tesla in May, accusing Musk of trying to take credit for the idea behind Tesla and defaming Eberhard in media interviews after orchestrating Eberhard’s ouster.

Tesla filed a legal motion in California’s San Mateo County Superior Court late on Monday seeking to get Eberhard’s suit dismissed.

According to the court papers, Eberhard was fired after the company learned that the cost of the company’s Roadster electric sports car would be far above what Eberhard had promised, and that the car would not be in production by the time frame he had laid out.

“Under any reasonable evaluation, Eberhard left the company’s finances in a shambles; the company teetered on the very bring of survival,” the court papers said.

An attorney for Eberhard, Yosef Peretz, would not comment on the content of Tesla’s motion. “I don’t think we will respond at this time,” he said. “We will respond to the motion.”

Despite its string of production delays bringing the Roadster to market, Musk said he expects that business to be profitable next month.

To become profitable and help win $465 million in critical loans from the U.S. Department of Energy, Tesla raised prices on the Roadster earlier this year by taking about $7,000 worth of options out of the vehicle’s $109,000 base price.

The company does not expect to have to bring prices up again.

“We did the minimum we needed to do to make the business work,” Musk said. (Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Carol Bishopric)