Trevor Milton, the founder of the Nikola Corporation, has stepped down as the executive chairman following allegations that he lied about his company’s technology. Milton founded Nikola, which designs and manufactures electric trucks, in 2014.
The accusation came from the investment fund Hindenburg Research less than two weeks after Nikola signed a $2 billion “strategic partnership” deal with General Motors. Nikola called Hindenburg’s accusation “false and defamatory,” the New York Times reported.
Milton’s Twitter account is private. But according to TechCrunch, Milton issued a statement on his page explaining that he felt his resignation was the best course of action for the company: “The focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me. I intend to defend myself against false accusations leveled against me by outside detractors.”
Despite his high-profile status, Milton kept his family largely out of the spotlight as he grew his company and became a billionaire in 2019, according to Forbes.
Here’s what you need to know about Milton’s family:
1. Trevor Milton & Wife Chelsey Relocated to Phoenix in 2018
Milton launched Nikola from Salt Lake City in Utah but moved the headquarters to Phoenix in 2018 in order to “recruit from a bigger talent pool,” he told Forbes. Milton also purchased a large house in Phoenix as part of the move.
Maricopa County, Arizona, property records list Milton and his wife, Chelsey, as co-owners of a more than 9,000 square foot house. The property is located in a gated community about 20 miles south of downtown Phoenix.
The Miltons bought the house for $2.150 million in April 2018. According to Redfin, the house has five bedrooms and six bathrooms and sits on about one acre of land. The property was described on the listing as a “hilltop custom Tuscan-inspired estate” offering “majestic views and more than 9,100 square feet of luxurious living ideal for a Valley executive or sports star.”
2. Milton’s Wife Was a Licensed Esthetician in Utah
Milton tied the knot in Wyoming in 2017. His Twitter account is set to private but a Google search brings up a tweet he posted on October 24, 2017. Milton wrote in part, “Can’t believe I got to marry a woman that is much better than I am. It happened this weekend in Wyoming! I’m now married!”
Milton’s Instagram account is also private but his profile photo includes his spouse. He described himself in the bio as “Husband to an amazing wife.”
According to a search of online records on InstantCheckmate, the only “Chelsey” associated with Milton is Chelsey Virginia Bergmann. She attended Utah Valley University and Cameo College of Essential Beauty, according to a LinkedIn profile associated with that name. Bergmann was a licensed “Master Esthetician” in Utah from January 2012 until the license expired in September 2019, records from Utah.gov show.
Milton mentioned his wife, without stating her name, during an interview with Hitting the Mark in early July. When asked about taking Nikola public on the stock market, Milton described it as the “second biggest day of my life, I tell people, because the first day was when I got married, but the second day definitely was being listed on the Nasdaq.”
3. Milton Lost His Mother to Cancer When He Was a Teenager
Milton lost his mother when he was 15. Sally Milton passed away in May 1997 at age 45, according to a search of online records.
Milton explained in a 2019 interview with Trucks.com that his childhood was shaped in part by his mother’s long illness. “From the time I was 6, my mother had cancer. I watched her cough up blood and eventually die.”
Milton added that he, along with his three sisters and one brother, were on their own much of the time. He said they “had to learn to survive as a family with a mother who was bedridden and a father who had to go to work 4-5 hours away. It was very tough, the toughest time of our lives, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Before her illness, Milton said his mother worked as a real estate agent. Sally Milton’s name comes up on the Nevada Real Estate Division website. She must have earned her license while the family was living in Las Vegas. The page listed her location as Knab, Utah. Trevor Milton told Trucks.com the family lived in Las Vegas when he was a young child but moved back to Utah when he was 8.
4. Milton’s Father, Bill Milton, Worked in the Railroad Industry
Milton’s father, Bill Milton, inspired his interest in the transportation industry. The elder Milton worked as a manager for Union Pacific Railroad. Milton recently told the Financial Times that he came up with the idea for a “pure electric freight truck” after seeing electric trains at his father’s workplace.
Milton has also talked about how his father encouraged his entrepreneurial spirit. He told Trucks.com that his father allowed him to borrow $20 so that he could buy candy and resell it to other students at his elementary school. “My dad got his degrees in business and finance, and while he wasn’t an entrepreneur, he wanted me to be one,” Milton told the website.
5. Milton Was Raised Mormon
Milton was raised in a Mormon household. He has said that his experiences within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped to inspire him as an entrepreneur.
According to the Phoenix Business Journal, Milton lived in Brazil for 18 months during a mission trip. He explained to Forbes in 2019 that while in Brazil, he worked in impoverished areas and that this experience “fueled a desire to pursue goals that make people’s lives better.”