Anyone can see that Elon Musk has been having a rough year.
The billionaire electric car maker, rocket launcher, tunnel digger and insulter of rescue divers sat down for an emotional interview with The New York Times, laying out recent trials and tribulations that led to a 6 percent stock-price drop on Friday for the car company Tesla, which he co-founded.
“This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,” Musk told the Times. “It was excruciating.” The outlet noted that over the hourlong interview on Thursday, he “alternated between laughter and tears.”
Although Musk and Tesla have been dogged by production issues for months, often requiring him to sleep at his production facility, his problems ratcheted up last week when an ill-advised tweet triggered a federal investigation.
As he explained in the interview, Musk was en route to an airport when he announced on Twitter that he was considering making Tesla a private company once more. He would offer 20 percent above shares’ trading price, rounded up to $420, the number being a weed reference. He claimed funding for the move ― about $10 billion, according to the Times ― had been secured.
Tesla’s stock prices surged that day. But it soon became clear that funding had not been secured beyond an initial discussion with Saudi government investors, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into Musk’s claim the following day.
Two people described by the Times as familiar with the matter said Tesla’s board members were angry at Musk for failing to consult with them before sending the tweet. (Musk said he had heard no such concerns.)
The SEC reportedly served Tesla with a subpoena this week.
The Times appeared to pin Musk’s many recent missteps ― barking at employees working around the clock to meet his deadlines, batting aside “boring” questions on an earnings call, calling a diver who helped rescue a boys’ soccer team in Thailand a “pedo” ― on his work ethic. The paper described a sleep-deprived CEO working 120 hours per week who hasn’t taken a substantial vacation since 2001.
Musk didn’t even get to celebrate his birthday this year.
“There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside,” Musk said. “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”
Yet there may be hope for this billionaire still: Tesla board members are reportedly searching for a No. 2 executive to help take some of the weight off Musk’s shoulders, the Times reported.