In a revealing New York Times interview published Thursday night, Musk said he had been charging full speed ahead in all directions — with the production of his electric-car
company’s first mass-market vehicle, the Model 3 sedan, and with the many business and personal obligations he says have begun to affect his health. “It’s not been great, actually. I’ve had friends come by who are really concerned,” Musk told The Times.
“There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside,” Musk said, adding: “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”
Normally known for his brash and unorthodox leadership style, Musk was, at points, penitent and self-reflective, acknowledging the headaches that some of his more recent public behavior has caused for his company, its board members, and its shareholders. The most recent episode came from Musk’s declarations about taking Tesla private. It all started with a tweet on August 7, and now, less than two weeks later, a Securities and Exchange Commission inquiry is underway, some members of Tesla’s board of directors have lawyered up, and several shareholder lawsuits have been filed.
The matter stems in part from Musk’s suggestion on Twitter that he had “funding secured” for a privatization deal and that shareholders could perhaps unload their shares for $420 each, a roughly 20% premium over Tesla’s stock price at the time. It later became clear that funding had not been finalized.
That prompted questions about what motivated Musk to hash out sensitive financial strategy on social media.
Among Musk’s explanations for the way he handled things is that he had seen his remarks as a good-faith effort to be transparent with his company’s stakeholders. His claim that funding for a go-private deal was “secured,” Musk said in a statement, was prompted by his belief that Saudi investors were on board to fund a deal.
The consequences have been swift and fierce, and members of Tesla’s board of directors are now said to be seeking legal protection.
OVERWORKED, SHORT-TEMPERED, AND SLEEP-DEPRIVED
In recent months, Musk has lashed out wildly on social media — at investment analysts, critics, and journalists who published stories about Tesla that he didn’t like. Musk, in his interview with The Times, pointed again to the challenges surrounding his heavy
workload and lack of sleep. “It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien,” Musk said.
The Times cited an unnamed source as saying some Tesla board members had expressed
concern about this, apparently viewing the sleep medication as sometimes leading to “late-night Twitter sessions” rather than sleep.
That issue, according to The Times, has helped catalyze internal efforts to find a second-in-command for Musk, though the chief executive told The Times he was unaware of any such ongoing plans.
In a statement to The Times that Tesla attributed to the board of directors, the company criticized what it called “false and irresponsible rumors” about the board’s discussions.
“We would like to make clear that Elon’s commitment and dedication to Tesla is obvious,” the statement said.
“Over the past 15 years, Elon’s leadership of the Tesla team has caused Tesla to grow from a small start-up to having hundreds of thousands of cars on the road that customers love, employing tens of thousands of people around the world, and creating significant shareholder value in the process.”