Musk demands bigger stake in Tesla as price for AI work
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk demanded that the company's board give him more than $80 billion worth of shares if it wants him to continue developing products based on artificial intelligence.
Mr Musk said on Monday on his owned social media site
The chief executive owns 13 percent of Tesla, which he named X, after selling a large portion of his stake to finance its $44 billion acquisition of Twitter. The social media site has struggled under his leadership and declined in value. An additional 12 percent of Tesla would be worth $82 billion at the current share price, effectively offsetting Mr Musk's investment in Twitter – which he has said he regrets – and then some.
“I am uncomfortable making Tesla a leader in AI and robotics without ~25% voting control,” Mr Musk wrote on X. “Enough to be impressive, but not so much that I can't be overthrown.”
He added: “Until that happens, I would love to make products outside of Tesla.” But he also said the board would not take any action until a Delaware judge rules in a lawsuit brought by a Tesla shareholder challenging an earlier compensation plan that helped make Mr Musk the world's richest man. Had played a role.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr Musk's demands underlined the extent to which Tesla, which sold 1.8 million vehicles last year and is the world's most valuable carmaker, is subject to his impulses.
Tesla's success forced traditional carmakers to start offering electric vehicles, which are essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. But Mr Musk's behavior and statements have weighed on the stock price and landed him in trouble with regulators.
Tesla shares fell after Mr Musk sold some of his stake to buy Twitter. Shares also suffered when Mr Musk said in 2018 that he had the money to take Tesla private and delist it from the stock exchange. Mr Musk was unable to implement the plan.
The company's stock has fallen about 14 percent so far this year but is up nearly 60 percent in the last 12 months.
Mr Musk did not specify what products he might develop outside the company. They have already started a separate artificial intelligence business called X.AI, which released the Grok chatbot to selected users last year. Tesla is developing a robot called Optimus that can fold a shirt, according to a video posted by Tesla on X on Monday. Tesla also uses artificial intelligence in its driver-assistance and self-driving systems.
On Twitter, some of Mr Musk's fans applauded his statement, saying he had made money. But others said it was their own fault that their stake in the company had fallen. “They didn't force you to sell your shares,” one user wrote, adding, “Why should the board do anything to improve this for you?”
Having less than a 15 percent stake in the company, Mr. Musk said, “makes it very easy for a takeover by questionable interests.”