A CEO of four billion-dollar companies smoking a blunt on a public podcast… Elon Musk has been the centre of a few controversy’s lately and its starting to have an effect on his businesses. So, what is going on with Elon Musk?
Firstly, it’s important to know a little bit about his background and how he got to be worth an estimated $21.1bn. Born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1971 Musk’s mother was a model and dietician and his father was an electromechanical engineer. Describing himself as an engineer one might think that Musk takes after his father, however their relationship was very fractious. Two years after the divorce of his parents, he decided to live with his father, however Musk has gone on to say “It was not a good idea”, and that his father was verbally and emotionally abusive. Hence Musk states that he was “raised by books”; Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series having a profound influence, saying that “The lesson I drew from that [Asimov’s Novels] is you should try to take the set of actions that are likely to prolong civilization, minimize the probability of a dark age and reduce the length of a dark age if there is one”. This certainly seems to fit Musk’s business philosophy: Tesla, a company that provides energy and transportation solutions without fossil fuels; SpaceX, a company whose main goal is to colonize Mars; and SolarCity, a company trying to provide energy for entire cities using –you guessed it- Solar power.
Musk’s business career began in 1995. Beginning as an entrepreneur he founded and sold multiple companies, PayPal for example, until he was left enough money to found SpaceX and become involved with Tesla. However, in recent times there has been a lot uncertainty about his future as a business leader.
He recently appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast in which he took a single drag on a Cannabis “Blunt”. Despite saying that he never smokes Marijuana as it affects productivity. Shortly after two senior executives quit and Tesla shares “crashed” by 6%. Another reason for this plunge could be to do with the SEC controversy, in which Musk tweeted that he had secured the funding to take the company private for $420 (£323) a share, that is, have all of its public shares purchased. It turned out however, that the funding was not there. For this Musk was fined $20m and bared from being the Chairman of a publicly traded company in the US for 3 years.
Musk also made headlines when he called Vernon Unsworth, the British diver who rescued children trapped in cave in Thailand, a “pedo” – he has since apologised. Tesla have also received criticism due to the public subsidies that they receive. This was highlighted by Existential Comics on twitter, Musk replied that Tesla actually receive less in subsidies than competitors and were prospering in spite of subsidies. According to Good Jobs First, a US non-profit, this is true; GM and Ford both receive more in grants and Tesla receives far less in loans, loan guarantees and bailout assistance.
So, with all this going on can he still be taken seriously as a business leader? It’s hard to tell but if Trump can make it to presidency then who knows what the future holds for Elon Musk…