Elon Musk told jurors on Monday that his 2018 tweet about taking Tesla private at $420 a share was no joke and that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund really wanted to help him do it.
The Tesla chief has returned to the witness stand to answer questions from lawyers from angry investors who accuse him of costing them millions of dollars with a pair of allegedly false tweets about securing funding to buy them out.
An attorney for the plaintiffs focused on Musk’s redemption number of 420, a number which is also a popular rallying code for marijuana, which Musk uses.
“420 wasn’t chosen because of a joke; it was chosen because it had a 20% premium on the stock price,” Musk said when asked if he was laughing when he made the tweet.
Musk added, however, that there was “a bit of karma around 420”, although “I would have to wonder if it’s good or bad karma at this point”.
The case revolves around a pair of tweets in which Musk said “funding secured” for a proposed takeover of the publicly traded electric carmaker, then in a second tweet added that “investor support confirmed” .
The tweets sent Tesla’s stock price on a roller coaster and Musk was sued by shareholders who said the tycoon acted recklessly in an effort to pressure investors who bet or ‘missed’ against the society.
Musk called the short sellers “evil” during the trial.
“It’s hard to appreciate at the moment how seriously Tesla was attacked by short sellers who wanted Tesla dead,” Musk told jurors.
– “Deal concluded” –
But Musk said he started the tweets in question after learning about a Financial Times story about a Saudi investment fund wanting to buy a stake in Tesla.
“My concern was that if they knew all of this information, they could also potentially know about the decision-making,” Musk said of the report.
Musk testified that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund “unequivocally, without a doubt” supports his project, adding that the head of the fund told him that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was also on board.
“So I basically took it as a done deal,” Musk said.
Faced with exchanges with the Saudi fund that showed it wanted more details before committing to its takeover plan, Musk said the fund was “backtracking”.
Musk testified that he understood the fund would do whatever it took to take Tesla private and that he had plenty of money to do so.
The billionaire added that even without the Saudi fund, he had the personal wealth to take Tesla private at the time, including using his shares in SpaceX, the company he also runs.
Musk said he shared some details of his plan with tech billionaire and Tesla investor Larry Ellison, who is among the witnesses scheduled to testify in the fraud trial.
In testimony last week, a Harvard professor called as a witness by the plaintiffs said Musk’s plans were “illusory” and a huge departure from the way these mega-deals usually unfold.
In his own opening remarks, Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro said while the tweets may have been a “reckless choice of words,” they were “not a fraud, not even close.”
“I’m charged with fraud; it’s outrageous,” Musk said as his lawyer took over the questioning on Monday.
The tycoon’s testimony is expected to end on Tuesday.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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