Tesla CEO Elon Musk became quite emotional in an interview with the New York Times when discussing the turmoil surrounding Tesla in recent months, blaming short-sellers for much of his stress. He also allegedly struggled to hold in tears as he described working through his birthday at the Tesla factory.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Tesla CEO Elon Musk discussed the issues surrounding his electric car company in recent months. The Times described Musk as “struggling to maintain his composure” when he stated: “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career. It was excruciating.”
The Times asked Musk if his health was suffering due to stress to which Musk replied: “It’s not been great, actually. I’ve had friends come by who are really concerned.” Musk discussed his recent tweets claiming that he wanted to take Tesla private once stock prices reached $420 a share. Musk says that he came to this figure after deciding he wanted to offer a 20 percent premium on current stock prices which would have come out around $419, a number Musk rounded up to $420.
“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.” Musk claims that Tesla board members didn’t express any anger or dissatisfaction over Musk’s tweets: “I don’t recall getting any communications from the board at all,” he said. “I definitely did not get calls from irate directors.” When asked if he regretted his Twitter post, Musk replied: “Why would I?”
After the story published, the Times reported that Tesla contacted the editors to correct Musk’s statement about the board. Independent directors did, in fact, contact Musk immediately after his tweets to question the decision.
After our story was published last night, @tesla contacted us to seek a clarification about the board’s reaction to Musk’s tweets. Not sure I’ve ever seen anything like this. @katekelly @dgelles @JamesStewartNYT @jbsgreenberg @andrewrsorkin pic.twitter.com/kPXkcBOtMr
— David Enrich (@davidenrich) August 17, 2018
Musk claimed in the interview that he had been working as many as 120 hours a week recently, saying that he has not had more than week off work since he was bedridden with Malaria in 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.”
Musk appeared to become emotional when discussing his 47th birthday which he spent entirely at work: “All night — no friends, nothing,” said Musk, who was allegedly quite emotional and struggling to speak. Two days after his birthday, Musk was scheduled to be the best man at his brother Kimbal’s wedding in Catalonia. Musk said he flew directly from the Tesla Gigafactory and arrived just two hours before the ceremony, after the ceremony he returned immediately to work.
The Times did not press Musk over his many ventures and trips not directly tied to Tesla’s production and sales efforts. These include time devoted to creating, selling, and attending parties for The Boring Company’s flamethrowers, his trip to Thailand during the cave crisis, and other diversions. The interview did not cover the multiple rounds of Tesla layoffs, workers that could have presumably helped Musk shoulder the load.
“I thought the worst of it was over — I thought it was,” said Musk. “The worst is over from a Tesla operational standpoint. But from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come.” Musk blames short-sellers for much of his stress, stating that he was bracing for “at least a few months of extreme torture from the short-sellers, who are desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla’s destruction.” Referring to the short-sellers Musk stated: “They’re not dumb guys, but they’re not supersmart. They’re O.K. They’re smartish.”
Musk has reportedly begun using the sleep-aid drug Ambien in order to rest: “It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien,” stated Musk. But some board members worry that the drug — known for sometimes causing erratic actions and impulsive decisions — does often not put Musk to sleep, but instead contributes to his late-night Twitter ramblings which have landed the CEO in hot water. People familiar with board members claim that the board is also aware that Musk has previously used recreational drugs.
Tesla executives have tried for some time to recruit a Chief Operating Officer, a second in command that could hopefully keep Musk under control, but so far have failed to find anyone. Musk stated that “to the best of my knowledge,” there is “no active search right now,” for a COO but a person familiar with the board stated that the search was underway and had even intensified in the wake of Musk’s latest tweets.
But it seems that Musk has no plans to give up his roles as both chairman and chief executive anytime soon: “If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now,” stated Musk.
Reaction to the Times interview came swiftly on social media, including a comment from television personality Jim Cramer, who says Musk requires “medical leave.”
Devasting New York Times piece filled with new facts. We know that the safest thing for Musk right now is a medical leave.. I would insist on it. https://t.co/kRm9Ye3i6l
— Jim Cramer (@jimcramer) August 17, 2018