Even still, there are plenty of notable low-lights from Musk & Co. over the past few weeks.
Musk and Tesla are hoping for a settlement with the SEC following his "funding secured" tweet in August to take Tesla private at $420. There's severe stress on Tesla's balance sheet and the company's 2025 bonds are making new 52-week lows. Musk is still dragging on about the "pedo guy" from Thailand.
With all that's been going on, should Elon Musk step down as CEO?
Tesla Cocktail: A Recipe for Disaster
Add 1 part whiskey, 1 part marijuana, 1 part smooth interviewer Joe Rogan and 1 part the combustable Elon Musk. The result? Tesla shares down almost 10% shortly after the open on Friday, although they ultimately ended the day down 6.3%.
The point isn't whether Musk held his inhale long enough on camera or whether pot is legal in California (he didn't and it is). The point is that he did it without any regard to what it would mean to his shareholders.
This is causing people on the outside to "perceive Elon Musk to be out of control," says Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5W PR. We're not going to see Musk fired over something like this, not in 2018, Torossian adds. But this is just one more thing to add to the list of all the other things Musk has said and done over the past few weeks and months that have made investors question his judgement.
- Tesla Announces Management Shuffle as Stock Slides, Bonds Sink to Record Low
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- Tesla Crashes Below This Key Technical Level as Talent Exodus Rages On
Surprisingly, Friday's decline likely isn't in reaction to the smoking interview. Instead, Friday morning the head of HR said she isn't returning from a leave and the chief accounting officer who joined a month ago is resigning. Amid our very eyes, we're watching a company with so much potential and a great product threatening to come undone from the inside out.
Defend Musk all you want and place him alongside all his billionaire, industry-altering peers such as Amazon's (AMZN) Jeff Bezos, Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs, Microsoft's (MSFT) Bill Gates, and Berkshire's (BRK.A) Warren Buffett. You name it. These folks still had strong number two execs.
Buffett has Charlie Munger, Jobs had Tim Cook. Gates had Steve Ballmer, despite his flaws. The point is, when Tesla was just working on the Model S and was a $20 billion company, Musk could handle it alone.
Tesla's now producing 20,000 plus cars a month with a three model lineup and more on the way, has acquired a solar company, and is looking to expand globally. With an operation that large, Musk desperately needs another strong exec in there, even if it means replacing himself as CEO. Musk could stay on as chairman and even take another role (innovation officer, technology officer, etc.).
Keep in mind, he still has the responsibilities that come from being the CEO of SpaceX, The Boring Company and Neuralink. He's also a parent.
Should Musk Move On?
Musk won't likely ever leave Tesla. Not if it's by his choice anyway.
Gabe Hoffman, general partner at Accipiter Capital Management and Tesla bear, is of the belief Musk won't be around much longer as CEO. While it could happen sooner, it will happen "almost certainly before year end," he said.
"The official reason provided, and the exact timing, are irrelevant in perspective to the impact upon Tesla's stock price. Once Musk is gone, 'the cult of Elon' will be finished, in the greatest cult stock of all time," he added.
Tesla bull Ross Gerber has a different take. "He's best off as CEO," said Gerber, president and CEO at Gerber Kawasaki, a wealth and investment management firm in Santa Monica, CA., who added that, "it's just about giving him the support he needs."
That's why the board needs to find him a number two person, such as a chief operating officer. "It's important for Elon and management to prove that the doubters are wrong. That this is a solid management team and we all have turnover," Gerber reasoned. "They've got to rebuild confidence [and] they've got to put a good team around Elon. I think the worst is behind them."
Time for Tesla's board to hit up the executive search firm scene before Elon takes a hit on something else.