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Musk’s nocturnal rants on Twitter raise concerns for Tesla investors




SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 15 (Reuters) – In 2018, Elon Musk worked through the night and slept at Tesla Inc’s ( TSLA.O ) factories in California and Nevada as the company struggled to ramp up Model 3 production.

On Monday, Musk said he had been working through the night at Twitter̵[ads1]7;s headquarters in San Francisco and would continue to “work and sleep here” until the social media platform – which he recently bought for $44 billion – was fixed.

A self-described “nanomanager,” Musk’s penchant for working long hours in moments of crisis has been a well-known part of his brand. But the billionaire’s deep dive into Twitter, following a long-running acquisition he tried to shelve, has some Tesla investors worried about his ability to focus on his role as chief executive of the world’s most valuable carmaker.

“Tesla investors are going to be frustrated,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures. “He’s probably going to spend more time on Twitter than any Tesla investor is comfortable with.”

Musk, who is expected to testify in court on Wednesday about whether a $56 billion pay package at Tesla is justified, did not respond to an email from Reuters seeking comment.

He tweeted Monday, “I’ve got Tesla covered too,” and said he planned to work at the electric car maker for part of this week. Tesla has an office in Palo Alto, California, and a factory in Fremont, California.

Tesla’s shares have fallen 50% since early April, when it revealed it had taken a stake in Twitter. The sale of Musk’s own Tesla shares – totaling $20 billion since he disclosed his Twitter stake – has added to the pressure.

Tesla faces a growing list of challenges from demand issues in China to a regulatory probe into the claims it makes about the capabilities of its “Autopilot” driver assistance technology in the United States.

So far this month, Musk’s tweets about his efforts to reboot Twitter have accounted for more than two-thirds of his posts on the platform he bought in October, according to a Reuters report.

Tesla accounted for just 3% of his tweets from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15, down from an average of nearly 16% over the past eight months.

Reuters graphics

Munster said he expected Twitter to consume Musk’s attention for the next six to 12 months, adding that Tesla was a more evolved company than in earlier days and less immediately dependent on Musk.

In recent days, Musk has said that his workload has increased significantly following the Twitter purchase.

“I have too much work on my plate,” he said by video link to a business conference in Indonesia on Monday, saying he was working “from morning to night seven days a week.”

“When Twitter is set on the right track, I think it’s a lot easier to manage than SpaceX or Tesla,” Musk said earlier this month at the Baron investment conference, referring to the aerospace company he also runs.

Tesla investor Ross Gerber, a strong supporter of Musk, said Tuesday that Tesla needed to find a replacement for its multitasking boss. “I think he’s finally reached a point where he’s really challenging himself. I think they’ve got to find the right person. And quite frankly, they just don’t have that person.”

‘MINIMUM TIME’

The Tesla board has expressed concern about Musk’s commitment to SpaceX and several smaller companies. Tesla Chairman Robyn Denholm said in a 2018 email that the “minimal time” Musk spent at Tesla “became increasingly problematic,” according to court documents related to his salary case. A Tesla shareholder says the board failed to approve a $56 billion pay package for him without requiring his full-time attention.

Another board member, Ira Ehrenpreis, noted during the trial that Musk was paid for results, not time spent, a view reiterated by Musk in a 2021 statement. At Tesla’s annual meeting in August, Musk responded to a question about “key man risk” by acknowledging his colleagues, saying “We have a very talented team here. So I think Tesla would continue to do very well even if I were kidnapped by aliens or went back to my home planet maybe.”

Musk has proven doubters wrong before, and some early investors say they expect him to join the Twitter challenge. “When you get an entrepreneur who does everything he’s done, we should just kiss his feet. The guy is amazing,” billionaire investor Tim Draper told Reuters.

But others have lost patience.

“Musk has managed to do what the bears have tried unsuccessfully for years — crush Tesla’s stock,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives, a longtime Tesla bull, said in a note last week.

Ives called Twitter an “albatross,” a “distraction” and a “money pit” for Musk. “The Twitter circus show is slowly starting to affect Tesla’s pristine EV brand,” he said.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Aditya Soni and Yurvaj Malik in Bengaluru Editing by Kevin Krolicki, Ben Klayman, Peter Henderson and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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