- Elon Musk appeared in court on Monday to defend Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity in 2016.
- Things got testy between Musk and the plaintiffs’ attorney.
- Musk said he hates running Tesla and could have worked on Wall Street.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Elon Musk took the stand on Monday to defend Tesla’s 2016 acquisition of a struggling solar firm founded by his cousins. It went about as smoothly as you’d expect a five-hour testimony from an outspoken billionaire with practically no filter would go.
That is to say, things got off-topic and, at some points, pretty testy.
A group of Tesla shareholders is suing Musk over the purchase of SolarCity, alleging that his role as its chairman and largest shareholder presented a conflict of interest. They claim that Musk pressured Tesla’s board into greenlighting the $2.6 billion purchase and want Musk to pay back $2 billion to the electric-vehicle maker.
Other members of the board have already settled to the tune of $60 million.
Musk maintains that he did not exert any influence over the board as it made the decision and pushed back against claims that it was a bailout, multiple outlets reported. He also reiterated that the deal was a stock-for-stock transaction that didn’t benefit him financially and that it was always part of Tesla’s plan to move beyond electric-vehicle production into clean-energy solutions.
Still, much of the day saw Musk sparring with the shareholders’ main attorney, Randy Baron, and giving meandering answers that got off-topic. Here are five of the most notable moments:
Musk “hates” running Tesla
Musk at one point said he doesn’t want to be Tesla’s CEO but fears that the company would falter without him.
“I tried very hard not to be the CEO of Tesla, but I have to or frankly Tesla is going to die,” Musk said, according to Bloomberg. “I rather hate being a boss. I’m an engineer.”
Musk, who also serves as CEO of SpaceX, a rocket firm he founded, has said similar things before. Tesla itself acknowledges in regulatory filings that it relies heavily on Musk and that it would be in a tough spot if he left the company.
“I think you are a bad human being.”
Sparks flew between Musk and Baron, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, in pre-trial depositions. Monday was no exception.
Asked why he was being “derisive” in his deposition, Musk retorted by pointing out a history of criminal activity at a law firm Baron used to work at.
“You were mentored by criminals,” Musk said, according to Bloomberg. “Then you continued to be mentored by criminals and that is why I do not respect you. I think you are a bad human being.”
“I think I’m funny.”
Baron asked if Tesla’s board approved Musk’s title change to Technoking in March, and Musk responded that it was a joke that was aimed at getting the carmaker free press. The company has no advertising budget, and Musk is known for leaning into memes and internet culture.
“It generated a whole bunch of free press and Tesla doesn’t advertise and it’s helpful to general sales,” he said, per Reuters.
“I think I’m funny,” Musk added.
Musk denied “rage-firing” anyone.
Pushing back against claims that he ousts employees in fits of rage, Musk said that he only gives “clear and frank feedback which may be construed as derision,” according to Bloomberg.
Tesla is notorious for its high executive turnover, and there have been reports that Musk goes on wild firing rampages. Tesla has refuted those claims.
“I was offered several high-paid jobs on Wall Street.”
In another timeline, Musk could have worked in finance, he told the court on Monday.
“I was offered several high-paid jobs on Wall Street,” Musk said, per Bloomberg. “I declined.”
Musk didn’t say where he could have worked. But, with a net worth close to $200 billion, he has made out well for himself anyway.