Elon Musk Confronts a Fateful Tesla Tweet and an ‘Excruciating’ Year Leave a comment

Elon Musk was at home in Los Angeles, struggling to maintain his composure. “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,” he said. “It was excruciating.”

The year has only gotten more intense for Mr. Musk, the chairman and chief executive of the electric-car maker Tesla, since he abruptly declared on Twitter last week that he hoped to convert the publicly traded company into a private one. The episode kicked off a furor in the markets and within Tesla itself, and he acknowledged on Thursday that he was fraying.

At multiple points in an hourlong interview with The New York Times, he choked up, noting that he nearly missed his brother’s wedding this summer and spent his birthday holed up in Tesla’s offices as the company raced to meet elusive production targets on a crucial new model.

Asked if the exhaustion was taking a toll on his physical health, Mr. Musk answered: “It’s not been great, actually. I’ve had friends come by who are really concerned.”

The events set in motion by Mr. Musk’s tweet have ignited a federal investigation and have angered some board members, according to people familiar with the matter. Efforts are underway to find a No. 2 executive to help take some of the pressure off Mr. Musk, people briefed on the search said. And some board members have expressed concern not only about Mr. Musk’s workload but also about his use of Ambien, two people familiar with the board said.

For two decades, Mr. Musk has been one of Silicon Valley’s most brash and ambitious entrepreneurs, helping to found several influential technology companies. He has often carried himself with bravado, dismissing critics and relishing the spotlight that has come with his success and fortune. But in the interview, he demonstrated an extraordinary level of self-reflection and vulnerability, acknowledging that his myriad executive responsibilities are taking a steep personal toll.

In the interview, Mr. Musk provided a detailed timeline of the events leading up to the Twitter postings on Aug. 7 in which he said he was considering taking the company private at $420 a share. He asserted that he had “funding secured” for such a deal — a transaction likely to be worth well over $10 billion.

That morning, Mr. Musk woke up at home with his girlfriend, the musician known as Grimes, and had an early workout. Then he got in a Tesla Model S and drove himself to the airport. En route, Mr. Musk typed his fateful message.

Mr. Musk has said he saw the tweet as an attempt at transparency. He acknowledged Thursday that no one had seen or reviewed it before he posted it.

Tesla’s shares soared. Investors, analysts and journalists puzzled over the tweet — published in the middle of the day’s official market trading, an unusual time to release major news — including the price Mr. Musk cited. He said in the interview that he wanted to offer a roughly 20 percent premium over where the stock had been recently trading, which would have been about $419. He decided to round up to $420 — a number that has become code for marijuana in counterculture lore.

“It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419,” he said in the interview. “But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There’s a reason for the word ‘stoned.’ You just sit there like a stone on weed.”

Mr. Musk reached the airport and flew on a private plane to Nevada, where he spent the day visiting a Tesla battery plant known as the Gigafactory, including time meeting with managers and working on an assembly line. That evening, he flew to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he held Tesla meetings late into the night.

What Mr. Musk meant by “funding secured” has become an important question. Those two words helped propel Tesla’s shares higher. Read Full Article..

Source: NY Times

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