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Elon Musk's tweeting style seizes spotlight in Tesla trial
AP Jan 25, 2023 4 days ago
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk's impulsive and sometimes inflammatory usage of Twitter took center stage Wednesday in a trial focused on whether he misled investors with his 2018 tweets indicating he had lined up financing to take the electric automaker private, a proposal that rapidly unraveled.
The furor that erupted over Musk's August 2018 weeks came just weeks after Tesla investors had urged him to clamp down on his usage of Twitter, fearing that the comments he was posting were damaging the automaker's brand, as well as the company's stock price.
“If something really upsets you, go for a walk around the factory," Ron Baron, a major Tesla shareholder, told Musk in a July 15, 2018 email that was displayed as evidence during Wednesday's trial. “Get an ice cream cone. Just don’t use Twitter.”
The “pedo guy" tweet also unsettled another long-time ally, https://www.valorep.com/team/antonio-gracias">Antonio Gracias, who served on Tesla's board from 2007 to 2021 and was the lead director in 2018. While testifying Wednesday, Gracias acknowledged having some discussions that “maybe Elon should take a break from tweeting."
Tesla's board never took formal action to rein in Musk's Twitter usage, but Gracias testified that he personally asked him to stop tweeting about a potential Tesla buyout without board approval after the Aug. 7, 2018 tweets.
A portfolio manager overseeing Tesla investments for T. Rowe Price also tried to counsel Musk about his Twitter usage in a July 18, 2018 phone call and a follow-up email, according to a videotaped deposition that was played for the jury during Wednesday's proceedings in San Francisco federal court.
Joseph Fath, the T. Rowe Price portfolio manager testifying under oath, said he tried to appeal to Musk's “better senses" during their July 2018 phone call, warning him his tweets were starting to do more harm than good for Tesla. To hammer the point home, Fath said he evoked actress Lindsay Lohan's penchant for attracting media attention with erratic behavior in public and how the attention tapered off once she began exercising discipline.
“I thought I had gotten through to him," Fath said of the phone call with Musk. Just to make sure, Fath followed up with an email to Musk imploring him to “remember the golden rule. Delete. Don't Tweet."
Less than three weeks later, Fath said he was “shocked and surprised" to hear about Musk's buyout tweet during a vacation he was taking in the Caribbean with his family. “It blew up my entire vacation," Fath said. During the first three months of 2019, Fath said T. Rowe began trimming its investments in Tesla, partially because of its diminished trust in Musk.
Tesla's stock price wound up soaring far higher between from 2019 through late 2021 before heading into a prolonged downturn that has deepened since Musk completed his $44 billion purchase of Twitter in late October.