Elon Musk: This has been the most painful year of my career

Andrew Cummings
August 20, 2018

In an extended story in Friday's Times, Musk said that the past year has been "excruciating" and "the most hard and painful" of his career.

The hour-long phone interview with several Times reporters coincides with a Wall Street Journal report that said regulators began investigating a year ago whether Tesla misled investors about Model 3 auto production ー far before Musk sent his now infamous "funding secured" tweet, which has drawn new scrutiny from the SEC.

Musk, 47, said that he is suffering the effects of dealing with production deadlines for his Tesla auto and the fallout from a federal investigation.

The Tesla boss says he's prepared for 'at least a few months of extreme torture from the short-sellers, who are desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla's destruction'.

A former member of Tesla's internal investigations team, Karl Hansen, filed a tips, complaints and referrals form to the SEC about the Gigafactory on August 9, Mr Hansen's attorney Stuart Meissner said in a news release.

"It's kind of weird", said Charles Elson, director of the corporate governance centre at the University of Delaware.

Tesla's board has moved to clarify Musk's comments by saying it hasn't received a formal outline of a plan to go private from Musk and hasn't reached a conclusion about whether going private would be achievable for the vehicle maker.

"If your plan is to take this company private, out of the public eye and the regulatory eye of the SEC, then people who have a fiduciary responsibility to their investors have to feel comfortable about the situation, and the New York Times article makes that harder", said Mike O'Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading.

Musk added he had agreed not to tweet again about taking the firm private unless he had discussed it with the board. "Weed is not helpful for productivity", he told the Times.

Musk said that during this meeting the fund's managing director "strongly expressed his support" to contribute funding to take Tesla private. "They can have the reins right now", he told the paper. Musk said he didn't receive complaints from Tesla's board regarding it. "It seemed like better karma at $420 than $419", said Musk, not exactly dispelling the idea.

All of this prompted Times columnist Kara Swisher to ask: "Is Elon Musk Crazy?"

Tesla Inc. has received a subpoena from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission regarding Elon Musk's effort to take the company private, indicating the regulatory scrutiny of his statements have reached a more serious stage.

The 47-year-old said he sometimes did not leave the Tesla factory for three or four days straight and he had not taken off more than a week at a time since he was sick with malaria in 2001. But The New York Times reported on Monday that Musk's "funding secured" tweet surprised the board, which it said had not approved the tweet. There's a reason for the word 'stoned.' You just sit there like a stone on weed'.

But a tweet Musk fired off last week has reportedly made him and the directors the targets of securities regulators, and may force the board to act.

The billionaire entrepreneur dismissed speculation that the Tesla stock price he quoted in the tweet - $420 - was a hint that he was smoking pot. It would also eliminate the issue of pesky short-sellers betting against the company and spreading doubts about its potential.

If Tesla directors are anxious about Musk - and they should be - here is advice for them: Do your jobs.

Following the wedding, he flew straight back to Tesla headquarters, and told the newspaper that he thought the worst was over when it came to Tesla's production headaches, but from a "personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come".

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