Former state Sen. Andy Vidak shakes hands with Jia Yueting (also known as YT Jia), founder and CEO of Faraday Future, at a VIP reception in Hanford in July 2018.

published on August 29, 2019 - 1:12 PM
Written by David Castellon

Faraday Future isn’t confirming or denying news reports that its embattled CEO is stepping down, but the would-be electric carmaker plans to make an announcement on Tuesday.

“FF began restructuring its organization in late 2018, and we have not only implemented many top management changes, but we continue to adapt to the marketplace to ensure our competitiveness remains in place. FF will announce more details on this in the near future,” states a posting to the company’s website Thursday morning.

It continues with, “FF will make a major announcement on September 3rd, so we encourage you to tune in to see what is next for Faraday Future,” without stating how people can tune in.

But whether the announcement will be about FF’s CEO and founder, Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting, or other matters related to the long-struggling startup carmaker, remains unclear, as company officials declined to comment Thursday afternoon.

The announcement, whatever it is, will be of particular interest here in the Valley, as FF reportedly spent hundreds of millions of dollars to do a top-to-bottom renovation of a million-square-foot former tire factory in south Hanford to convert it into the business’ first car factory.

Currently, it’s not clear how much of the conversion has been completed or if FF’s financial problems ever will allow the factory to start mass production of its planned FF 91 luxury, electric sport utility vehicles.

FF made news earlier this week when Chinese news agency Pandaily ran a story with the headline, “Faraday Future Rumored to Restructure, CEO to Step Down.

“Rumors surfaced on Aug. 26 that FF will likely restructure into a partnership, with no additional details available,” states the story, which also noted the rumor of Jia stepping down, without any formal verification from FF, which is based in Gardena but does design and technical work in the Los Angeles area and China.

But while the press release mentions Jia extensively, praising his contributions to FF, it doesn’t say if the CEO actually is stepping away from his post.

Called by some English-language media “China’s Steve Jobs,” Jia initially funded FF on his own. But he reportedly overextended himself in his other businesses, piling up major debts back home.

His financial issues prompted him to authorize an outside, minority investor to come in, as FF faced the threat of insolvency, but a dispute over when portions of the planned $2 billion investment would be paid and claims by Jia that the Chinese investor was trying take control of FF from him lead to a dissolution of the partnership.

Earlier this year, FF announced it had made a deal worth up to $600 million with The9, a Chinese maker of mobile game apps, to partner on building an electric car plant in China to make a different SUV for that market.

That funding would have very little effect on starting up the Hanford plant, while a $225 million bridge loan FF reported securing would have a bigger effect here, a company spokesman said in May.

As for Jia’s debts, the FF press release states, “Mr. Jia continues to attend to his remaining debts and has made it a priority to repay them as quickly as he can. Most recently, he has repaid more than $3 billion in domestic [China] debt through various means during the past two years. The establishment of the debt repayment trust hopes to provide a thorough solution to this issue as soon as possible.”

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