Tesla CEO Elon Musk emailed employees today to discuss the possibility of the company going private, saying “a final decision has not been made,” and complaining about investors short-selling the company’s stock.
Elon Musk published a letter he sent to employees regarding the possibility of taking Tesla private two hours after he tweeted the idea of taking the company private once its stock price reaches $420 per share. According to Musk’s tweets, funding to go private is secured and investors have backed the move, but the final say in the matter remains up to shareholders:
Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018
Investor support is confirmed. Only reason why this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote. https://t.co/bIH4Td5fED
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018
In the letter to employees, Musk reiterates the idea of taking Tesla private at $420 per share, but does say a final decision has not been made.
Musk’s stated reasons for going private include avoiding the quarterly earnings cycle that places pressure on public companies, and he also mentions that Tesla stock has attracted short sellers who “have incentive to attack the company.”
Musk compares Tesla to SpaceX, which he considers to have advantages due to being privately held. At the same time, he claims it is not his intention to merge the company with SpaceX.
In the letter Musk outlines potential structure and ownership for a private Tesla, and claims, “this has nothing to do with accumulating control for myself.”
The market halted trading in Tesla’s stock before the release of Musk’s letter to employees, when trading resumed, the company’s stock price rose by as much as 11 percent.
The letter can be read in full below:
Earlier today, I announced that I’m considering taking Tesla private at a price of $420/share. I wanted to let you know my rationale for this, and why I think this is the best path forward.
First, a final decision has not yet been made, but the reason for doing this is all about creating the environment for Tesla to operate best. As a public company, we are subject to wild swings in our stock price that can be a major distraction for everyone working at Tesla, all of whom are shareholders.
Being public also subjects us to the quarterly earnings cycle that puts enormous pressure on Tesla to make decisions that may be right for a given quarter, but not necessarily right for the long-term. Finally, as the most shorted stock in the history of the stock market, being public means that there are large numbers of people who have the incentive to attack the company.
I fundamentally believe that we are at our best when everyone is focused on executing, when we can remain focused on our long-term mission, and when there are not perverse incentives for people to try to harm what we’re all trying to achieve. This is especially true for a company like Tesla that has a long-term, forward-looking mission.
SpaceX is a perfect example: it is far more operationally efficient, and that is largely due to the fact that it is privately held. This is not to say that it will make sense for Tesla to be private over the long-term. In the future, once Tesla enters a phase of slower, more predictable growth, it will likely make sense to return to the public markets. Here’s what I envision being private would mean for all shareholders, including all of our employees.
First, I would like to structure this so that all shareholders have a choice. Either they can stay investors in a private Tesla or they can be bought out at $420 per share, which is a 20% premium over the stock price following our Q2 earnings call (which had already increased by 16%). My hope is for all shareholders to remain, but if they prefer to be bought out, then this would enable that to happen at a nice premium.
Second, my intention is for all Tesla employees to remain shareholders of the company, just as is the case at SpaceX. If we were to go private, employees would still be able to periodically sell their shares and exercise their options. This would enable you to still share in the growing value of the company that you have all worked so hard to build over time. Third, the intention is not to merge SpaceX and Tesla.
They would continue to have separate ownership and governance structures. However, the structure envisioned for Tesla is similar in many ways to the SpaceX structure: external shareholders and employee shareholders have an opportunity to sell or buy approximately every six months.
Finally, this has nothing to do with accumulating control for myself. I own about 20% of the company now, and I don’t envision that being substantially different after any deal is completed. Basically, I’m trying to accomplish an outcome where Tesla can operate at its best, free from as much distraction and short-term thinking as possible, and where there is as little change for all of our investors, including all of our employees, as possible.
This proposal to go private would ultimately be finalized through a vote of our shareholders. If the process ends the way I expect it will, a private Tesla would ultimately be an enormous opportunity for all of us. Either way, the future is very bright and we’ll keep fighting to achieve our mission.