Elon Musk sells $7 billion in Tesla stock for Twitter deal

Elon Musk, CEO of electric car maker Tesla, has sold about $7 billion of the company’s stock, a move he said on Twitter was an attempt to raise cash in case he was forced to complete the $44 billion deal to buy Twitter.

The sale of 7.92 million Tesla shares began Friday, Musk disclosed Tuesday in securities filings, a reversal from his earlier statements that he would not sell additional shares to finance the Twitter deal.

Mr. Musk signed the deal in April to buy the social media company, only to announce months later that he intended to withdraw, citing concerns about the accounting of fake users. His hesitation coincided with a deep drop in stocks of technology companies, including Tesla, the primary source of his wealth.

Twitter has sued Mr. Musk to force him to end the deal through a provision in the contract known as “specific performance.” A Delaware Chancery Court judge will decide in October whether he must follow through on the acquisition.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Mr. Musk said he had sold the shares because, “in the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to end *and* some equity partners don’t come through, it’s important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla -stock.” Mr. Musk is the richest man in the world, but much of his wealth is tied up in shares in Tesla, and he also said on Tuesday that he would buy more Tesla shares if his deal to buy Twitter didn’t close.

In April, Musk sold about $8.5 billion of Tesla stock to help finance the deal, before tweeting that he had no further sales planned.

Shares in Twitter rose nearly 4 percent in late trading on Wednesday, but remained well below the $54.20 a share Mr. Musk has offered for the company. Shares in Tesla also rose almost 4 percent.

In addition to about $13 billion in debt financing, Musk said in May that he would pay for the Twitter acquisition with about $33.5 billion in cash, through a combination of his own funds, outside investors and partnerships with other Twitter shareholders. He had already signed up a list of Silicon Valley heavyweights — including venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and tech mogul Larry Ellison — to commit about $7.1 billion to the deal. Other backers include cryptocurrency companies, family offices, sovereign wealth funds, real estate firms and mutual fund companies.

Many of those who support Mr. Musk’s bid have been subpoenaed by Twitter in an increasingly bitter courtroom.

Mr. Musk has cast doubt on how Twitter accounts for the number of fake users. Twitter has defended its process, which it says includes proprietary and confidential information.

In recent weeks, both Twitter and Mr. Musk have sparred over details of the deal. Mr. Musk unveiled his counterclaims against Twitter last week, accusing the company of committing “fraud” and forcing him into a sale. Twitter’s chairman, Bret Taylor, called his claims “factually inaccurate, legally insufficient and commercially irrelevant.”

At the same time, it seems that Musk strikes a more open tone towards the possibility of going through with the agreement. At Tesla’s investor day last week, he talked about the changes he would make to Twitter if he were to run it.

On Saturday, he tweeted: “If Twitter only provides their method of trying 100 accounts and how they are verified to be real, the deal should continue on original terms.”

Still, it seems Mr. Musk is keen to keep the doors open. In response to a question on Twitter about whether he would create his own social platform if the deal doesn’t close, he replied: “” Mr. Musk, who has an affinity for the letter X, has spoken of a desire to create a rival service. Twitter has cited this possibility as a reason to oppose his demands for confidential information about how it accounts for fake users.

Many legal analysts have said Twitter’s argument is stronger than Musk’s, but they have questioned whether a judge would be willing to order him to end the deal, with the risk that he might not follow through, given Musk’s habit of taunting legal. limits.

His sale of Tesla stock may assuage those concerns, said Ann M. Lipton, a professor of corporate governance at Tulane Law School.

“The sales make it clear that he intends to comply with court orders,” she said.

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