Musk’s late nights on Twitter are raising concerns among Tesla investors

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 15 (Reuters) – In 2018, Elon Musk worked all night and slept at Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) plants in California and Nevada as the company struggled to ramp up production of the Model 3 .

On Monday, Musk said he had been working all night at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters and would “work and sleep here” until the social media platform — which he recently acquired for $44 billion — was repaired.

A self-proclaimed “nanomanager,” Musk’s penchant for working long hours in times of crisis is a well-known part of his brand. But the billionaire’s deep dive into Twitter, after a lengthy buyout he tried to scrap, has left some Tesla investors concerned about his ability to focus on his role as CEO of the world’s most valuable automaker.

“Tesla investors will be frustrated,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures. “He will probably spend more time on Twitter than any Tesla investor feels comfortable with.”

Musk, who is expected to testify in court Wednesday on whether a $56 billion compensation package at Tesla is warranted, did not respond to an email from Reuters asking for comment.

He tweeted “I’ve got Tesla covered too,” on Monday, saying he planned to work at the electric vehicle maker for part of this week. Tesla has an office in Palo Alto, California, and a factory in Fremont, California.

Shares of Tesla are down 50% since early April when it announced it had taken a stake in Twitter. The sale of Musk’s own Tesla stock — totaling $20 billion since he disclosed his Twitter stake — has added to the pressure.

Tesla faces a growing list of challenges, from demand issues in China to a regulatory investigation into the claims it’s making about the capabilities of its “Autopilot” driver assistance technology in the United States.

Musk’s tweets about his attempts to reboot Twitter this month account for more than two-thirds of his posts so far on the platform he acquired in October, according to a report from Reuters.

Tesla accounted for just 3% of its tweets from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15, compared to an average of nearly 16% over the previous eight months.

Reuters chart

Munster said he expects Twitter to capture Musk’s attention over the next six to 12 months, adding that Tesla was a more developed company than it used to be and less directly dependent on Musk.

In recent days, Musk has said his workload has increased significantly following his Twitter purchase.

“I have too much work on my plate,” he said via video link to a business conference in Indonesia on Monday, saying he “worked from morning to night seven days a week.”

“Once Twitter gets on the right track, I think it’s much easier to manage than SpaceX or Tesla,” Musk said at Baron’s investment conference earlier this month, referring to the aerospace company he also runs.

Tesla investor Ross Gerber, a strong supporter of Musk, said Tuesday that Tesla should find a replacement for its multitasking CEO. “I think he’s finally reached a point where he’s really challenging himself. I think they need to find the right person. And honestly, they just don’t have that person.”

‘MINIMUM TIME’

Tesla’s board has expressed concern about Musk’s commitment to SpaceX and several smaller companies. Tesla CEO Robyn Denholm said in a 2018 email that the “minimum time” Musk spent at Tesla was “increasingly problematic,” according to court documents related to his payroll process. A Tesla shareholder says the board failed to secure a $56 billion pay package for him without demanding his full-time attention.

Another board member, Ira Ehrenpreis, noted at the trial that Musk was paid for results, not time spent, a view echoed by Musk in a 2021 statement. At Tesla’s annual meeting in August, Musk responded to a question about “key-man risk” by acknowledging his colleagues and saying, “We have a very talented team here. So I think Tesla would continue to do very well even if I was abducted by aliens or maybe moved back to my home planet.”

Musk has proven his doubters wrong before, and some early investors say they expect him to be ready for the Twitter challenge. “If you get an entrepreneur who does everything he’s done, we should just kiss his feet. The guy is amazing,” billionaire investor Tim Draper told Reuters.

But others have lost their temper.

“Musk has succeeded in doing what the bears have been trying in vain for years: crush Tesla stock,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives, a longtime Tesla bull, said in a note last week.

Ives called Twitter an “albatross”, a “distraction” and a “money pit” for Musk. “The Twitter circus is slowly starting to impact Tesla’s pristine EV brand,” he said.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Aditya Soni and Yurvaj Malik in Bengaluru Edited by Kevin Krolicki, Ben Klayman, Peter Henderson and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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