Elon Musk told jurors Monday that his 2018 tweet about taking Tesla private for $420 a share was no joke and that Saudi Arabia̵[ads1]7;s sovereign wealth fund was serious about helping him do it.
The Tesla chief returned to the witness stand to answer questions from lawyers for angry investors who accuse him of costing them millions of dollars with a pair of allegedly false tweets about securing the financing to buy them out.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs focused on Musk’s buyout number of 420, a number that is also a popular collective code for marijuana, which Musk uses.
“420 wasn’t chosen because of a joke; it was chosen because it was a 20 percent premium over the stock price,” Musk said when asked if he was laughing when he wrote the tweet.
However, Musk added that there was “some karma around 420,” although “I should question whether it’s good or bad karma at this point.”
The case centers on a pair of tweets in which Musk said “funding secured” for a project to buy out the publicly traded electric car maker, adding in a second tweet that “investor support is confirmed.”
The tweets sent Tesla shares on a rollercoaster ride, and Musk was sued by shareholders who say the tycoon acted recklessly in an attempt to pressure investors who had bet, or “shorted,” against the company.
Musk referred to short sellers as “evil” in the lawsuit.
“It’s hard to understand right now how much attack Tesla was under by short sellers who wanted Tesla to die,” Musk told jurors.
– ‘It’s in a box’ –
But Musk said he fired off the tweets in question after hearing about a Financial Times story about a Saudi Arabian investment fund looking to buy a stake in Tesla.
“My concern was that if they knew all this information, then they could also potentially know about the private,” Musk said of the news report.
Musk testified that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund was “unequivocally, without question” supportive of his project, adding that the head of the fund told him the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was also on board.
“So basically I took it as a done deal,” Musk said.
When confronted with exchanges with the Saudi fund that showed they wanted more details before committing to his buyout plan, Musk said the fund was “backpedaling.”
Musk testified that he understood the fund would do whatever it took to take Tesla private and had plenty of money to do so.
The billionaire added that even without the Saudi fund, he had the personal wealth to take Tesla private at the time, including using his shares in SpaceX, the company he also runs.
Musk said he had shared some details of his plan with tech billionaire and Tesla investor Larry Ellison, who is among witnesses to testify in the fraud trial.
During testimony last week, a Harvard professor called as a witness by the plaintiffs said Musk’s plans were “illusory” and deviated wildly from the way such megadeals typically take place.
In his own opening remarks, Musk attorney Alex Spiro said that while the tweets may have been a “reckless choice of words,” they were “not fraud, not even close.
“I’m being accused of fraud; it’s outrageous,” Musk said as his lawyer took over the questioning on Monday.
The tycoon’s testimony is due to end on Tuesday.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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