Elon Musk told jurors on Monday that his 2018 tweet about taking Tesla private at $420 a share was not a joke and that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund was serious about helping him make it happen.
The Tesla boss returned to the witness stand to answer questions from lawyers for angry investors who accuse him of costing them millions of dollars with a pair of allegedly false tweets about financing being secured to buy them out.
The attorney for the plaintiffs focused on Musk’s redemption figure of 420, a number also popular with marijuana gatherings, which Musk uses.
“420 wasn’t chosen for a joke, it was chosen because it was a 20 percent premium to the stock price,” Musk said when asked if he was laughing when he posted the tweet.
Musk added, however, that there was “some karma around the 420,” though “I’d have to wonder if that’s good karma or bad karma at this point.”
The case revolves around a pair of tweets in which Musk said that “funding is secured” for a project to buy out the public electric car maker, then added in another tweet that “investor support has been confirmed.”
The tweets sent Tesla’s share price on a slide, and Musk has been sued by shareholders who say the tycoon acted recklessly in an attempt to pressure investors who had bet or “went short” against the company.
Musk called short sellers “evil” at trial.
“It’s hard to judge now how much Tesla was under fire from sellers who wanted Tesla to die,” Musk told jurors.
– ‘Done deal’ –
But Musk said he deleted the controversial tweets after learning of a Financial Times story about a Saudi Arabian investment fund looking to acquire a stake in Tesla.
“My concern was that if they knew all this information, then they could potentially know about the takeover,” Musk said of the news report.
Musk testified that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund “unequivocally, without question” supported his project, adding that the head of the fund told him that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia was also on board.
“So I basically figured it was a done deal,” Musk said.
When confronted with exchanges with the Saudi fund that indicated they wanted more details before committing to his buyout plan, Musk said the fund was “holding back.”
Musk testified that he understood the fund would do whatever it took to take Tesla private and that it had enough 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, a 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 to testify in the fraud trial.
During testimony last week, a Harvard professor called as a witness by prosecutors said Musk’s plans were “illusory” and deviated greatly from the way such mega-deals typically happen.
In his opening statement, Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, said that while the tweets may have been a “reckless choice of words,” they were “not a hoax, not even close.
“I have been accused of fraud; it’s outrageous,” Musk said as his lawyer took over the questioning on Monday.
The tycoon’s testimony is scheduled to end on Tuesday.
(Other than the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)
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