Tesla billionaire Elon Musk is a reluctant media darling whose every tweet and comment is heavily scrutinized. Musk has chafed under the white-hot glare of the invasive press, leaving Tesla investors to sometimes question his mercurial leadership.
CCN.com chronicles 10 times that Musk’s tweets have given caused panic for Tesla shareholders and fans.
1. Musk Flippantly Mulls Taking Tesla Private
In August 2018, Elon Musk made headlines after flippantly suggesting that he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share — which was a 20% premium to the company’s stock price at the time.
Musk drew volcanic backlash from Tesla shareholders, with some questioning his competence to continue leading the company he founded in 2003. Two weeks later, Musk backpedaled on his statement, but by then, the damage was done.
Weeks later, the SEC sued Musk for securities fraud, claiming his tweet caused Tesla stock to spike 6% that day. Tesla shareholders got angry when the fallout from the tweet caused TSLA to plunge in the following days.
The SEC claimed that Musk had made “false and misleading” statements about Tesla without notifying regulators about his intentions to take Tesla private.
In September 2018 — a month after he sent the tweet — Musk agreed to pay a $20 million fine to settle the SEC’s securities fraud charge. He also agreed to step down as chairman and take other remedial actions, including having a committee monitor his communications.
2. Elon Musk Jokingly Shills Bitcoin
In October 2018, the Tesla CEO comically tweeted: “Wanna buy some Bitcoin?” in response to a question about when Tesla would adopt two-factor authentication.
The tweet went viral, garnering thousands of likes and retweets within hours, and causing crypto enthusiasts to ask when Tesla would accept crypto. In reality, it was a joke making light of Musk’s love of anime.
Musk later revealed that Twitter had briefly locked his account over concerns that it had been hacked. The episode underscores how heavily dissected Musk’s every statement is, and that even his jokes could anxiety.
3. Musk Suggests British Diver Was a Pedophile
In July 2018, Musk suggested that a British cave diver who was part a team that rescued a Thai soccer team from a cave was a pedophile. Musk made the remark after the diver, Vern Unsworth, dismissed Musk’s offer to send a mini-submarine to help with rescue efforts as a “PR stunt.”
Unsworth added that Musk could “stick his submarine where it hurts,” and scoffed that it had “absolutely no chance of working.”
That enraged Musk, who was merely trying to help. So he responded with an angry tweet calling Unsworth “pedo guy.” Musk later deleted the tweet, but the diver filed a defamation lawsuit against him.
4. Musk Tweets Inaccurate Production Estimate
This week, Musk committed an epic Twitter gaffe when he projected Tesla’s full-year 2019 manufacturing numbers at 5,00,000. The production projection immediately sent the media into overdrive because the estimate was much higher than expected.
Hours later, Musk clarified his original tweet, saying he “meant to say” the company’s annualized production rate at the end of 2019 could reach 500,000 vehicles. That’s a production rate of 10,000 cars a week. Musk added that total deliveries for 2019 are still estimated at 400,000.
The media criticized the errant tweet, saying Musk has not learned his lesson about casually tweeting things that might affect Tesla’s stock price or earnings projections.
5. Musk Smokes Pot During Live Podcast
In September 2018, Musk fueled more controversy when he smoked pot during a live podcast with comedian Joe Rogan.
Musk has since been immortalized in a viral meme that shows him taking a drag off his joint while comically smirking.
6. Musk Disses Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
In July 2017, Musk dissed fellow billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, saying the Facebook CEO doesn’t understand artificial intelligence.
Musk was responding to Zuckerberg’s comment during a Facebook Live broadcast, where he indirectly swiped at Musk for his dire warnings about artificial intelligence.
As CCN.com reported, Musk — who’s a huge fan of AI — warned that artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to mankind. Zuckerberg called this kind of fear-mongering “irresponsible.”
That’s when Musk clapped back on Twitter, suggesting that he couldn’t talk to Zuckerberg about AI because the Facebook mogul is clueless.
“I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.”
7. Elon Musk Torches the Media
The media have a love-hate relationship with the enigmatic Musk. They love to trash-talk him. And he hates their relentless, pointed criticism, which he considers unfair.
Indeed, there are probably more negative stories about Musk than positive ones — usually focusing on his flighty temperament and frenetic energy. But the press is obsessed with Musk, so they can’t just ignore him.
The nonstop negative coverage had caused Musk to sometimes lash out at the media — and they clap right back. In May 2018, Musk blasted the media for being thin-skinned whenever a public figure like him or President Donald Trump criticizes them.
“Anytime anyone criticizes the media, the media shrieks “You’re just like Trump!” Why do you think he got elected in the first place? Because no ones believes you any more. You lost your credibility a long time ago.”
8. Musk Admits He’s Weird — and He Loves It
Despite his massive wealth and global influence, Elon Musk has a quirky sense of humor that makes him relatable to average people. In May 2018, Musk confessed that “I’m pretty weird. It’s time the world knew.”
9. Musk Dispels Rumor That He’s an Alien
In 2015, Musk comically quashed rumors that’s he a lost alien who’s secretly trying to get back home like E.T.
10. Musk Gets Philosophical
Musk leads an extraordinary life, and no one is more aware of that than he is.
“Nothing is both real and imaginary,” he tweeted.
Shareholder: Tesla Is the Next Amazon
Despite his eccentricities, Elon Musk is the subject of endless fascination in the business world. A polymath who taught himself computer programming at age 10, Musk now helms two of the most popular companies in the world: Tesla and SpaceX.
While the media have lambasted Tesla for not turning a profit since its 2010 IPO, bullish shareholders like Cathie Wood, the CEO of ARK Invest, say the sky’s the limit for the electric-car pioneer.
In fact, Wood is confident that Tesla will blossom into the next Amazon and that its stock price will top $4,000 a share over the next five years.
“The same thing was happening with Amazon for years. We were considered crazy, and yet now it seems so obvious. I think the same is going to be true of Tesla.”