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5 Takeaways From Elon Musk’s Melodramatic ‘NY Times’ Interview

The Tesla founder is not “on weed” and has “no regrets” about the tweet that launched an SEC investigation

Elon Musk

Tesla founder Elon Musk is not "on weed," he says, and has "no regrets" about the tweet that launched an SEC investigation

Kiichiro Sato/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Elon Musk seems to be having a difficult time. In a new interview with The New York Times, the chairman and chief executive of the electric-car maker Tesla is described as “struggling to maintain his composure,” “choked up,” alternating “between laughter and tears” and “overcome by emotion.” Calling the past year the “most difficult and painful” one of his career – “excruciating,” in fact – Musk spent over an hour emoting to Times’ reporters about the recent professional and personal flare-ups that have captured headlines (which was reminiscent of his emotional interview with Rolling Stone last year), causing Tesla’s stock price to skyrocket and then nosedive in less than two weeks. Here are a few key takeaways…

 

  1. That tweet about taking Tesla from a public company to a private one was off-the-cuff.

On August 7th, Musk fired off an impromptu tweet that would come as a surprise to his followers, investors and board members alike.

“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” he tweeted around lunch, a peculiar time to release news of such magnitude, given that market trading had already begun for the day.

Musk told the Times the tweet was an attempt at transparency, but he admitted that he hadn’t been transparent with his own company before he posted it. The impulsive disclosure was made while Musk was driving himself to the airport for a midday flight – and by the time he landed at his destination, Tesla’s shares had gone up by 7 percent, and by the end of the day, 11 percent, just above $379.

The tweet also prompted an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission as to what exactly Musk meant by “funding secured.” He has since said that he was referring to a potential investment by Saudi Arabia’s government investment fund, but sources told the Times that they hadn’t made any commitments. Musk was subpoenaed by the SEC and is expected to meet with officials as early as next week.

On Friday, 10 days after the tweet was posted, Tesla’s shares nosedived, and are trading just under $311, down more than 7 percent for the day.

  1. That said, Musk has “no regrets.”

“Why would I?” he asked, telling the Times he had no intention of changing his Twitter use. Musk denied reports that Tesla’s board had complained to him about the tweet, but later clarified that he had agreed not to tweet again about the privatization deal without discussing it with the board.

  1. And BTW, he is definitely not “on weed.”

Musk insisted that the $420 price was not a coded reference to marijuana – he was just rounding up from $419, after calculating an offer that was a roughly 20 percent premium over recent share prices.

“It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419,” Musk told the Times. “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.”

  1. Musk prefers Ambien.

“It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien,” Musk told the Times about his effort to catch a few Zzz’s during his 120-hour work weeks.

But his recent late-night behavior has some worried that the Ambien may be doing more harm than good. Last month, apparently upset about the stranded Thai soccer team, Musk sent a team of his own engineers to help with the rescue efforts, and lashed out at a cave diver for dismissing the gesture, insinuating the diver was a pedophile.

According to the Times’ sources, some board members are also “aware” of Musk’s alleged use of recreational drugs, which was most recently put on blast by none other than Azealia Banks. In a series of since-deleted Instagram posts earlier this week, Banks said she had flown out to Musk’s Los Angeles home to work on a collaboration with his girlfriend, the musician Grimes, and ended up being left “alone for days.” Banks claimed to be at the home in the days after the tweet was posted, and accused Musk of being “too stupid to know not to go on Twitter on acid.”

“I saw him in the kitchen tucking his tail in between his legs scrounging for investors to cover his ass after that tweet,” she said in an interview with Business Insider. (Musk has denied knowing Banks, and a Tesla representative called her claims “complete nonsense.”)

  1. Musk had a very lonely 47th birthday.  

Working 120 hours per week has taken a toll on the executive, who claims he hasn’t taken off more than a week of work since 2001.

“There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside,” he said. “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”

He didn’t even take a day off on June 28, his 47th birthday, instead working for 24 hours straight.

“All night — no friends, nothing,” he told the Times, who described him as “struggling to get the words out.”

It sounds like Musk doesn’t expect his 48th birthday to be much better.

“I thought the worst of it was over — I thought it was,” he told the paper. “The worst is over from a Tesla operational standpoint. But from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come.”

 

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