Short sellers lament burn, Tesla burns cash, Musk burns weed ...
Tesla Inc. (TSLA) shares plunged to the lowest level in five months Friday following news that a key short-seller is suing the clean-energy carmaker for allegedly misleading investors over plans to take the company private and a radio interview that raised further questions over the judgement of founder and CEO Elon Musk. Shares extended also declines after the company said its chief accounting officer, Dave Morton, had resigned after less than a month in the job.
Andrew Left, who runs Citron Research, filed his suit against Tesla at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco Thursday, alleging Musk "artificially manipulated the price of Tesla securities with objectively false tweets in order to 'burn' the Company's short-sellers" when he sent his now infamous "taking Tesla private. Funding Secured" message on August. 7.
News of the suit, one of seven that targets the Palo Alto, Calif.-based group, was soon followed by an appearance from Musk on the Joe Rogan podcast, in which he smoked marijuana, drank whiskey and told the comedian during the two and a half hour interview that it was "very difficult to keep a car company alive."
"I'm not a regular smoker of weed," Musk said. "I don't actually notice any effect. I don't find that it is very good for productivity."
Tesla said the company's accounting functions will be overseen by CFO Deepak Ahuja and the group's corporate controller, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
"Since I joined Tesla on August 6th, the level of public attention placed on the company, as well as the pace within the company, have exceeded my expectations," Morton said in the statement. "As a result, this caused me to reconsider my future."
"I want to be clear that I believe strongly in Tesla, its mission, and its future prospects, and I have no disagreements with Tesla's leadership or its financial reporting," Morton added.
Tesla shares were marked 9.9% in the opening minutes of trading Friday before paring the decline to around 6.3% and changing hands at $263.46 each, a move that takes the stock to the lowest level since April 2 and some 37% from the $420 price that Musk indicated he had funding support to purchase the shares in the open market.
Musk's public behaviour since the August Tweet has raised serious questions over his ability to run a public company, with the billionaire founder himself telling the New York Times last month that the past year has been the "most difficult and painful" of his career.
Since that interview, however, Musk has courted controversy -- and added to his increasingly active legal calendar -- by reviving a spat with Vernon Unsworth, a British diver who was part of the rescue team that extracted twelve Thai boys from a local football team, along with their coach, trapped in a cave beneath the Doi Nang Non mountain on the border of Myanmar.
"He's an old, single white guy from England who's been travelling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time," Musk told Buzzfeed in an email earlier this week in which he referred to Unsworth as 'child rapist'. "There's only one reason people go to Pattaya Beach," Musk allegedly told Buzzfeed.
Unsworth's attorney, Mark Stephens, have vowed to sue the billionaire for libel.
Musk is also facing a probe from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over the August Tweets, with Fox Business News reporting Thursday that one of them is Roel Campos, a former SEC commissioner and partner at the Hughes, Hubbbard and Reed law firm, while other reports suggest he's also drafted Steven Farina of Williams & Connolly.
"There's only been two car companies in American history that haven't gone bankrupt," Musk said during the podcast interview. "That's Ford (F) and Tesla."
"The man that created tens of billions in market capitalization for an unprofitable enterprise through sheer salesmanship is going further and further down a road that will destroy it," wrote Real Money contributor David Butler earlier this week. "With each tweet, every absurd statement, every promise that cannot be kept, Musk is destroying the credibility that Tesla so desperately needs in order to succeed."
"With further Model 3 shortfalls, that daunting debt payment next year, and self destructive voice at the helm, I truly believe TSLA can find $230 a share by Christmas," Butler argued. "Tesla shares dropped by 2.8% on Wednesday, closing at $280.74. They were hovering at $380 less than a month ago."