Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, has been scrutinised for unusual behaviour. Musk smoked weed during the taping of a podcast, announced he might take Tesla private via Twitter, and was criticised on social media by rapper Azealia Banks who claimed to spend the weekend at his house. Following is a transcript of the video.
Matthew DeBord: There’s a lot of aggressive criticism around Elon Musk right now. You know, people are saying he’s off his rocker, he’s engaging in some really strange behaviour, he’s smoking pot on podcasts. There’s all sorts of stuff happening on social media. OK, let’s say he’s fired.
OK, the next day, the stock plummets. Obviously, that’s a good reason to not fire him if you’re concerned with the stock. Also, you know, you just don’t take lightly firing somebody who is that embedded with the design and engineering of the vehicles that you’re selling, with the leadership of the company, who’s, you know, a celebrity, and is the public face of everything. You know, so the reputational damage to Tesla’s brand would be profound. Right, a lot of people might say, I don’t want a Tesla anymore. There’s no Elon Musk, I don’t want a Tesla. They have 400,000 pre-orders, more or less, you know, give or take, for the Model 3. They could all go away! The stock could collapse and all those pre-orders could go away. So there’s that.
Now, on the other hand, you could also say that companies have survived these catastrophes before. You know, that he’s created a great product, people seem to love it, for the most part, and there’s no reason why they can’t soldier on. If the leadership structure is modified in some way, so that Elon is no longer 100% majordomo, running the company, then that, too, could, you know, have pluses and minuses. The pluses would be that the tech media and the financial media constantly sort of digging around to figure out what’s going on with Tesla, that might quiet down and they might be able to go into a period where they can sort of execute, just you know, blocking and tackling and get through the struggles they’re up against right now.
On the other hand, you know, putting Elon in some box and saying this person’s gonna, you know, take over operations of the company, you’re gonna have nothing to do with it, might be a complete catastrophe, because then you’ve still got Elon in a leadership role and he’s not gonna tolerate people telling him that he’s wrong or that this is a stupid way to do things. That’s why the kind of Gwynne Shotwell scenario is possibly very desirable. Have Gwynne Shotwell, who’s currently the person running SpaceX, become the chief operating officer of SpaceX and Tesla. He trusts her, you know, he believes in her capabilities, she performs this operational role for the two companies. He could also not be, so if he’s not fired, he remains CEO, but he steps away from the chairman’s role of the board. They get a new chairman of the board and that could be Al Gore, he’s somebody who’s, if they were to do that, they would need to put somebody in there who’s big, who’s a big, powerful, influential personality, who could convince Elon to do things differently and give him that kind of sage advice that only a real prominent person can get across.
I mean, I don’t know, what other scenarios are there, right? Like, he’s completely deposed, he’s out on the streets, I mean, he still controls 20% of the company. It would be really hard to make him not a billionaire.
Tesla is a lot of things, but at its core, it’s a car company and if you look back over the history of the car business, there are many personalities, you know, who didn’t exist in a 24/7 media environment, there was no social media, and they were flamboyant, they were controversial, they did all sorts of things that we look at now and say that’s very immoral what you’re doing. Enzo Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari was an autocrat. Henry Ford II, he got into a drunk driving incident while he was still married to one of his wives who had been his mistress and his new mistress was in the car when he was in the wreck. You know, Elon is in no way, shape, or form fitting into this kind of framework. OK, yes, he’s been married and divorced a few times, he has a bunch of kids, he’s smoked some pot, he engages in weird behaviour, but it’s actually, it’s actually not inconsistent with the personalities that are attracted to the car business.
I think what a lot of people are maybe not taking into account is that at this juncture, Tesla has produced, you know, since Elon’s been running this company, the three best all-electric vehicles that have ever been produced in the history of electric cars. Elon, to his credit, is one of the best electric vehicle designers and engineers in the world right now. He runs the company as the CEO, but he knows an enormous amount about how electric vehicles are put together, how they’re manufactured, all that kind of stuff.
To be honest with you, given where Tesla is right now, I think they need Elon more than they don’t need him and so if he were to leave now, it would be bad for Tesla operationally and as a business and it would, obviously, I think, be pretty bad for Tesla as an investment.
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