5 Takeaways From Musk’s Interview With The New York Times

Posted August 17, 2018 10:44 a.m. EDT

Tesla is not considering hiring a chief operating officer, the electric carmaker’s founder and chief executive, Elon Musk, has said in wide-ranging comments to The New York Times.

Musk’s remarks during the hourlong interview came despite long-running efforts by the company to recruit a deputy who could assume some of his day-to-day responsibilities. He also discussed the extraordinary demands of running Tesla and the profound effect it has had on his personal life.

“To the best of my knowledge,” Musk told The Times on Thursday, there was “no active search right now.” People familiar with the matter, however, said that executives were looking for a No. 2 executive, and one person said the hunt had intensified in recent weeks.

A couple of years ago, Tesla approached Sheryl Sandberg, currently Facebook’s No. 2 executive, about the job, Musk said.

Here are four other takeaways from the interview, at his home in Los Angeles.

— Tweeting on the Way to the Airport

Musk provided a detailed timeline of the events that preceded the tweet that roiled financial markets, outlining how the day began with an early workout at his home before he drove himself to the airport in a Tesla Model S.

En route, he typed out the message that provoked the latest crisis over his leadership of Tesla.

“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” he wrote.

Musk said no one reviewed or saw the tweet before he sent it, but the post sent Tesla’s shares soaring. He then reached the airport and took a private jet to a Tesla battery plant in Nevada. Later that evening, he flew to the San Francisco Bay Area and held meetings into the night.

— No Regrets

Although his tweet triggered questions from the Securities and Exchange Commission — such information is usually issued through official channels after extensive preparation — and from his own board, Musk said he did not regret sending it.

“Why would I?” he asked.

The Tesla founder said he did not plan to stop using Twitter, either. Some board members have recently told him that he should lay off the social media platform and focus on his company, according to people familiar with the matter.

— ‘Not on Weed’

Once Musk’s tweet about taking Tesla private was posted, speculation was rife that his target share price, $420, held an implicit message — the number has become code for marijuana in counterculture lore.

Musk offered a less-illicit reason: He wanted a roughly 20 percent premium over where the stock had recently been trading, and rounded up. “I was not on weed, to be clear,” he said.

“Weed is not helpful for productivity. There’s a reason for the word ‘stoned.’ You just sit there like a stone on weed.”

He did note, though, that he sometimes takes Ambien to help him sleep when he is not working, a practice that has worried some of Tesla’s board members.

They worry that the drug does not put Musk to sleep, but instead contributes to late-night Twitter sessions, a person familiar with the matter said. Some board members are also aware that Musk has occasionally used recreational drugs, according to people familiar with the matter.

— ‘The Worst Is Yet to Come’

Musk outlined the toll that running Tesla had taken on his personal life, from spending the entirety of his birthday at work to nearly missing his brother’s wedding, where he was to be best man.

But while that effort appears to have helped Tesla gain a firmer footing, things could get worse for him personally, he said.

“I thought the worst of it was over — I thought it was,” he said. “The worst is over from a Tesla operational standpoint.”

“But from a personal pain standpoint,” Musk added, “the worst is yet to come.”