Elon Musk's 'Surreal' Call Costs Him a Lot of Money

Tesla's stock drops after CEO impatiently brushes off questions
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2018 11:06 AM CDT
Elon Musk's 'Surreal' Call Costs Him a Lot of Money
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, in a file photo.   (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Leave it to Elon Musk to turn what's normally a dry affair—a conference call with analysts—into a controversial one. The Tesla CEO's brushoff of questions he didn't like on Wednesday continues to take a toll, with the company's stock down 7% as of Thursday morning, reports Reuters. It "was arguably the most unusual call I have experienced in 20 years," says a Morgan Stanley analyst, per CNBC, whose story uses the word "bizarre" in its headline. (Reuters notes that Musk also spoke of "barnacles, flufferbots, and bonehead bears" during the call, dubbed "surreal" by a Cowan analyst. More reaction and developments:

  • 2 moments: A post at CNNMoney pulls out five key moments, including when Musk stopped his chief financial officer from answering a question about capital expenditures. "Excuse me. Next. Boring, bonehead questions are not cool. Next?" said Musk. At another point, after an analyst asked about trouble with Model 3 reservations, Musk responded with about 15 seconds of silence before moving on to another subject. "These questions are so dry," he said. "They're killing me."

  • What Musk did like: He took more than 20 minutes of questions from a 25-year-old YouTuber, one of whose videos is titled "Why I Bought Tesla Today at $255/Share," per the Wall Street Journal. Musk thanked him for his "interesting" questions, including about Tesla's plans for a network of driverless cars.
  • Oh, come on: Not everybody was critical. Jim Cramer of CNBC called it "the best call I've heard in a long time." Like Musk, he viewed the questions as "tired and boring" and said that a lot of CEOs would secretly love to respond the way that Musk did. Countering that is an assessment by a Kelley Blue Book analyst who was on the call. "Elon, you've got to grow up," said Rebecca Lindland, per CNBC.
  • The earnings report: The call came after an earnings report that showed a loss, though one that beat Wall Street expectations. However, it also showed that Tesla burned through $1.1 billion in cash, notes Charley Grant at the Wall Street Journal, who also is worried about Musk's continued hedging on Model 3 targets. "Tesla's shares are flat this year despite mounting problems," he writes. "Dreams can't support Tesla's $50 billion market value forever."
  • Costly antics: The combo of the earnings report and conference call has cost Musk a pretty penny, notes MarketWatch. Given that he's Tesla's biggest shareholder, the drop in stock price could put a dent of about $780 million in his account.
  • One last question: The DealBook blog at the New York Times runs through some of the tense moments from the call and concludes with a question of its own: "If Tesla asks Wall Street for money again, what will the answer be?"
(More Elon Musk stories.)

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