‘Bad Bets’ Podcast About Disgraced Nikola CEO Trevor Milton Getting Scripted Treatment (EXCLUSIVE)

The whiplash-inducing rise and fall of American businessman Trevor Milton will be the subject of a new scripted project from Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, the Wall Street Journal, and Story Force Entertainment.

The project — currently exploring both feature and series adaptations — is based on WSJ’s popular “Bad Bets” podcast franchise, which is currently airing a series subtitled “The Unraveling of Trevor Milton.” It follows the former Mormon missionary-turned-founder of electric vehicle startup Nikola Motor Company, whose misdoings were exposed by Wall Street outsiders and a ragtag team of whistleblowers. The story gripped listeners who witnessed in real time Milton’s recent convictions for securities and wire fraud. The adaptation will share narrative qualities with the Oscar-wnning “The Big Short,” filmmakers added.

“It pops the balloon of fakery at the heart of American big business. First, a blowhard pumps up his stock by selling a dream too good to be true,” said Gibney. “Then, while everyone’s lighting cigars and toasting each other in the cabin of the dirigible, no one — except a few party poopers who make their hasty exit — notices the shoddy stitching and the sound of helium escaping as the craft lifts off.”

Gibney, Kevin Plunkett, and Sruthi Pinnamaneni will produce for Jigsaw. Blye Faust and Cori Shepherd Stern will produce for Story Force, along with Ben Weltman and Daniel Rosen for The Wall Street Journal. The production team has also secured the exclusive participation of Hindenburg Research principal Nate Anderson and other key members of the whistleblowing team.  

Milton, a community college dropout and serial entrepreneur from Utah, claimed to have the world’s first semi-truck powered by hydrogen. An outsized presence on social media, Milton compared himself to Elon Musk. In 2020, Nikola went public via SPAC and saw its valuation peak at $30 billion. This bested legacy companies like Ford and Chrysler without a single unit on the road. General Motors and Anheuser Busch struck deals with the company, celebrities jumped into the fray, and retail investors gobbled up the stock.  Milton himself became a billionaire, landing on the Forbes 400 the same year.

It came crashing down when little-known short seller Hindenburg Research published a report revealing scandalous details about the company, including that Milton had faked proof-of-concept footage around his invention. The report was the result of a secret whistleblowing effort between the Hindenburg team and a group of inventors jilted by Milton over the years.

“From the moment we came across this larger-than-life story, we could not look away,” added Story Force partner Faust. “It is remarkably a tale of our times and precisely emblematic of our ethos and culture, yet teems with characters in a world that feels so distinctly of its own.”  

Milton, who was convicted of fraud nearly a month ago, is set for sentencing in January.

The first four episodes of “Bad Bets” are currently available and the fifth drops this Friday, November 4th, followed the sixth and final episode on Friday, November 11.  Jigsaw is represented by UTA, and Story Force and The Wall Street Journal by WME. 

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