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Nikola sells electric Badger pickup truck program to friend of disgraced founder Trevor Milton

Beleaguered electric trucking company Nikola has sold the Badger electric pickup truck assets it was once supposed to build with General Motors. The buyer? A new company called Embr Motors created by vehicle builder and television personality Dave “Heavy D” Sparks, one half of the former TV duo the Diesel Brothers.

Embr now owns the intellectual property associated with the Badger pickup truck, as well as the assets related to Nikola’s abandoned off-road and personal water craft vehicles. It also owns the only two prototype versions of the Badger ever built.

News of the deal to sell the Badger program comes at an odd time. Just a few weeks ago Nikola’s disgraced founder, Trevor Milton, announced plans to try to install Sparks and a slate of other directors on the company’s board. That effort failed. Milton was sentenced to four years in prison in December after being convicted of securities fraud and wire fraud in 2022, in part because he misled investors about the progress of the Badger.

From its founding in 2014, Nikola was always mainly about making hydrogen and electric big rigs. But it revealed the Badger pickup in February 2020, just a few months before it went public in a merger with a special purpose acquisition company. In September 2020, General Motors announced it was investing $2 billion in the startup and that it would help bring the Badger to market. Just days later short-selling research firm Hindenburg Research published a damning report alleging Nikola had made a number of false claims. That report spiraled into a government investigation, and ultimately, led to Nikola paying a settlement to the SEC and Milton’s departure and eventual conviction. Nikola refunded the customer deposits for the Badger and put the program on ice.

Diesel Brothers Dave “Heavy D” Sparks and Diesel Dave (Getty Images)

 

Sparks first revealed the purchase earlier this week in a YouTube video titled “The Nikola Badger is REAL and I Own Them.” He said the transaction involved “tens of millions” of dollars.” He also explained how he was given stock in Nikola as part of an arrangement to promote the Badger (before the program went under), and that he’s a longtime friend of Milton’s.

Nikola confirmed some details of the purchase Thursday morning, when it revealed its financial results for 2023.

Britton Worthen, the company’s chief legal officer, said on a conference call that Sparks and his partner, Cole Cannon, “expressed a desire” to bring the Badger to market and brought “several EV-related partners” to meetings as the two sides hammered out a deal. Nikola is essentially loaning money to Embr to purchase the assets and in exchange for a 30% stake in the company, which could “retain some value for its shareholders” if anything ever comes of the Badger or the other vehicles.

Worthen said Nikola is clawing back 500,000 of those shares Milton gave Sparks as part of the deal. Sparks and Cannon also agreed that Milton would not be involved “directly or indirectly in any way” with these projects.

“Over the three and a half years since Mr. Milton left the company, we at Nikola have worked to stay above the fray, not comment on his legal proceedings, and stay focused on the work at hand to bring zero-emission class eight trucks to market,” Worthen said on the call. “The irony that Mr. Milton is now trying to take control of Nikola, after all that has happened in the past three and a half years is not lost on us at the company. We will continue to push back against any efforts he makes to attempt to take control of Nikola and we believe our directors and management are far and away better for our stockholders than a slate of directors who lack relevant experience to run a clean energy clean tech company.”

TechCrunch reached out to Cannon for comment on his and Sparks’ involvement in the project but did not immediately hear back.



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