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BETTER PLACE DISASTER ZONE: Ex politician turned CEO Evan Thornley boned as losses surge past $600M

ThornleybonedBemused Australian political watchers were surprised overnight when the former Victorian Labor MP Evan Thornley, who declined the sought-after position of Minister for Industry to take a well-paid job running an electric car battery charging firm was sacked by the board of the company, after accumulating $600 million+ in losses.

Thornley had been the $700,000 per annum Australian CEO since his surprise departure from politics in early 2009, only stepping up to become global CEO late last year after the ousting of company founder Shai Agassi, then a mate of Thornley’s. Dozens of high-priced executives populate the massively loss-making company, sources tell VEXNEWS.

He barely lasted three months before being sacked himself by the company backed by those including Israel’s richest man Idan Ofer.

The ex-Labor MP’s Facebook page declared:

Time to pack my swag … ‘artistic differences’


Company insiders tell VEXNEWS this is a reference to Thornley and the board of the company disagreeing about strategy, with Thornley insisting that billions more were needed to aggressively pursue a global roll-out of a chain of electric-car battery swapping stations while the company’s backers and board preferred to consolidate in Israel and Denmark, where they had made the most progress, and to grow from there.

Insiders fear this means Thornley’s Australian operation, which has lost many tens of millions of dollars, under his stewardship, will be liquidated taking the investment of people like Ben Keneally, the husband of former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally, with it. Many former Labor and union staffers have worked at Better Place and are making plans to depart, sources say.

“It’s hard to see the Australian business survive, even if the company continues in Israel, which has got to be in serious question at this stage. Lots of money has been raised but it’s been burned at such a rapid pace, no-one thinks it’s viable” one well-informed source told VEXNEWS this morning.

“Whatever you think of Evan, shifting people off petrol was a great idea, geo-politically, environmentally,  I’m not sure this was this right strategy for that, though, and there have probably been too many over-paid wiz-kids on the payroll and not enough practical solutions, it’s pretty obscene what some of the salaries have been,” he said.



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  1. Damn, that carbon tax was a sure fire success!!!!!!

    Posted by cynic | January 17, 2013, 11:30
  2. I always admired Shai Agassi’s innovation, particularly as I’d like to see the Arab oil industry as financially bankrupt as they are morally. It would have been doubly amusing to see this brought about by an Israeli Jew.

    But getting into bed with some of the investors and ex-politicians here? Couldn’t possibly see that going awry…

    Posted by Dan Lewis | January 17, 2013, 14:52
  3. What’s the point of electric cars in Victoria when our electricity comes primarily from brown coal? It was never going to work.

    Posted by Fred | January 17, 2013, 19:20
  4. Ted is destroying this state.

    Posted by Mysterious and wise | January 17, 2013, 22:21
  5. Fred, Better Place was buying 100% renewable electricity (see half-way down this page http://www.betterplace.com.au/about-us/our-solution.html).

    As for highly paid whiz-kids, as a former employee I can confirm there were lots of whiz kids, and none of them were highly paid. We all took pay cuts, some over 50%, to work for the company.

    Posted by Facts please! | January 18, 2013, 22:25
  6. You thought you were buying 100%renewable energy, the fact is you don’t know where the f&@k it comes from!! If you haven’t cottoned on yet, there isn’t a separate Green electricity grid.

    Soft arsed, lazy latte sipping joke of a concept. Alternate to fossil fuel powered vehicles is never going to be plug in cars!! Any so called whiz kid would have been smarter than hooking up with this dud!

    Posted by Right Said Fred | January 19, 2013, 11:55
  7. Thornley was once my upper house MLC. He came and went before we know what he stood for.

    I think a Liberal eventually replaces he (or his ALP replacement) in the last state election for Southern Region.

    I dont think he qualified for a Parliamentary pension but correct me if I am wrong

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | January 19, 2013, 14:19
  8. Ted’s Brown coal expansion has caused the latest drought.
    The quicker that he and his stupid mate Ryan enter oblivian the better.

    Argus Tuft

    Posted by Ian Pirie | January 19, 2013, 16:19
  9. what’s going on with poor inga binga. looks like some libbies are boning her. not nioce!

    Posted by mike tyler | January 20, 2013, 10:17
  10. “Many former Labor and union staffers have worked at Better Place” let us see the names of these vermin

    Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2013, 11:13
  11. When the French Post Office ordered 10,000 small elctric Renaults that didn’t battery swap the idea was dead. The connection stations was the only real business. When you can get a high percentage recharge now in 20 minutes in a Nissian or Mitsubishi who is going to swap their probably new $14,000 battery?

    Posted by Kim | January 20, 2013, 18:44
  12. Remember this headline? “Labor’s star recruits – Tim Pallas and Evan Thornley” http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/vic/content/2006/s1572737.htm

    Thornley is covering himself in glory and Pallas can’t even get his way in local branch elections out west. Locals lined up late last year to roll his former staffer in a contested branch election after she caused a year of turmoil in the otherwise quiet branch.

    Pallas thought it’d be a great Christmas present to tell the locals how disappointed he was with their decision. I’m sure the five people who supported his candidate would be heartened by his support.

    Posted by Star recruiter | January 21, 2013, 23:59
  13. Don’t worry about Thornley. He learnt his lessons well from his Labor mentors Bracks, Brumby and Co. His mates (including Little Timmy shadow Treasurer (is that a joke??) in the last Labor Government caused enough economic harm to the State with a desal plant which is now costing us 2 million every day even though we have enough water from our existing water storages. Maybe the teacher’s unions should take out some venom against them. (Not likely)

    Posted by George Wallace | January 22, 2013, 17:31
  14. With this current drought George Wallace the water storage will not last long.Since Red Ted has eased restrictions to level one we will all be screaming for the Desal Plant

    Posted by Argus Tuft | January 23, 2013, 14:53
  15. yet more evidence that when you pal up to labor any financial acumen you may have had departs with its pants on fire. good at selling an initial concept, bad at practical business building & growth

    Posted by kk | January 24, 2013, 14:57
  16. C u on the tram then. My convenient electric powered vehicle.

    Posted by C u on the tram | January 29, 2013, 19:21
  17. The battery swap was never going to work unless they owned the battery and then there would have been a black market of pilfering them, and their electricity charge station model focused more on reselling electricity for their profit in their charging strategy than making it attractive to the customers – They were clearly relying on a Labor government via their contacts to offer up departmental car fleets to old mates, and thats not going to happen with the labor loss of most states and the expected labor loss of Federal government soon too.
    Clearly without a launch fleet they were never going to get a critical mass for private buyers.

    I saw enough of their model to be pleased to see them go, they were doing electric vehicles a dis-service, and bullying other participants and stakeholders to suit their business model.

    Look at the waste to have lost $600M!, where did it go?

    George – re the desal, to be fair, please remember this was Liberal party policy as the then opposition going into the 2006 election, that they lost and Bracks won, and then chose to adopt and build the desal. Clearly at the time we were still in the millenium drought, Climate Change was telling us the Dams would never fill again. Its easy now to consider it a white elephant but it was at the time the only way to ensure Melbournes 3 million residents (and industry) were not left high and dry. Building a new dam at the time wasnt going to make it rain.

    Electric Cars are the way of the future, but not through a third party monopoly model these guys were planning. And yes the Electric Tram is one of Melbournes wise decisions to retain the old world charm long enough for it to become fashionable again.

    Posted by Sojin Muneshi | January 29, 2013, 23:25
  18. Ted needs to act fast to save these jobs. Victoria needs Better Place and electric car jobs. C’mon!!

    Posted by Young | January 31, 2013, 6:08