Samantha England, Staff Writer
On Aug. 7, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, posted a tweet that sent the business world, and more importantly the Tesla Board of Directors, into shock.
“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.”
Less than two hours later, after Tesla stock had already risen 7 percent, the Nasdaq halted trading as Tesla published a letter from Musk explaining to employees about the privatizing of Tesla. Once trading was resumed, Tesla stock rose again, and ended the day up 11 percent. In a later interview he explained the dollar amount of 420, as the first thought that comes to mind is the number’s reference to the counterculture code for marijuana. “It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419,” he told David Gelles, the Corner Columnist for The New York Times. “But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There’s a reason for the word ‘stoned.’ You just sit there like a stone on weed.”
On Aug. 15, Musk revealed a new and worrisome definition to his personal identity. In an interview with The New York Times that was reported the next day, Musk broke down in tears and choked with laughter as he revealed that the past twelve months have been, “the most difficult and painful year of my career. It was excruciating.”
In this surprising interview, the world learned of how Musk had been working 120-hour work weeks. A work ethic so dedicated that it has caused him more harm than good, particularly in his personal life. He has not spent much time with his kids, nearly missed his brother’s wedding earlier this year, and friends have come to him concerned about his health. He admitted to The New York Times that he had been taking Ambien, a prescription sedative to help those with diagnosed insomnia, to help him sleep.
The Tesla Board of Directors had been aware of the stress that Musk has been dealing with. There had been attempts to find someone to ease that stress by taking on some of Musk’s duties and obligations. That search has been kicked into a higher gear recently, but it may already be too late. The tweet that Musk posted to Twitter on Aug. 7 has also brought trouble to Tesla’s doors in the form of investigators from the San Francisco Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Tesla and Musk had received subpoenas from the SEC days after an initial request for an explanation about the Twitter post. It is currently unknown if the SEC will pursue a case against Musk and Tesla for misleading investors, which violates Rule 10B-5, a powerful antifraud rule. On Sept. 27, the SEC filed a suit against Musk for fraud, the first ever case of fraud against a CEO regarding social media.
However, for Gelles, the business reporter who received the startling interview from Musk, it was an important revelation about the chief executive of Tesla. It was a remarkable interview for him, as he wrote for the Times Insider, “It was one of the most extraordinary interviews of my career, and by one simple measure it was a first: In all the conversations I’ve had with business leaders over the years, not until Elon Musk got on the phone had an executive revealed such vulnerability. By speaking with such candor — choking up, pausing repeatedly to regain his composure — Mr. Musk made clear just what a steep toll his work was taking on his personal life. It was a reminder that despite all their efforts to make the public believe otherwise, C.E.O.s have feelings, too.”
Musk is just as human as anyone else, and we now see the limits his stress has taken him to. All anyone can hope for is that the consequences of his actions do not take him down further.