Elon Musk told a court that when he sent a controversial tweet, he thought he had enough support to take Tesla private.
The boss of an electric car company is on trial because investors say that a tweet he sent in 2018 cost them millions of dollars when a deal fell through.
Mr. Musk says he met with a Saudi Arabian fund that has a lot of money and they said they would back a deal.
He also said that if he needed money, he would have sold his share of the rocket company SpaceX.
Mr. Musk is accused of cheating investors because on August 7, 2018, he tweeted that he had “secured funding” to take Tesla private at $420 (£341) per share and that “investor support is confirmed.”
Shares of Tesla went up after the tweet, but they went back down after Mr. Musk said the plan was no longer going to happen. This was a big blow to the billionaire.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) forced him to step down as Tesla’s chairman, and a separate committee had to approve any tweets mentioning the company.
He and Tesla were also each fined $20 million to settle an SEC claim that he had cheated investors.
On Monday, Mr. Musk told a San Francisco court that he met with representatives from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia on July 31, 2018.
He said that a price for taking Tesla private wasn’t talked about, but that the fund’s representatives made it clear they were in favor of a deal.
Mr. Musk said that Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who is in charge of the fund, then seemed to go back on his promise.
“I was very upset because when we met, he was very clear that he was in favor of taking Tesla private, but now he seemed to be changing his mind,” he said.
‘Not a joke’
Mr. Musk was also asked how he came up with the price of $420 per share and if it was a joke about marijuana.
In 2018, the SEC said that Mr. Musk calculated the price by taking the price of Tesla shares on a certain day and adding a 20% premium. Based on those numbers, the price was $419.
But according to legal documents from the SEC, “He rounded the price up to $420 because he had recently learned about the number’s significance in marijuana culture and thought his girlfriend “would find it funny, which is not a great reason to pick a price.”
In American counterculture, the meaning of 420 is said to have come from a group of California students in the 1970s who got together after school at 4:20 to smoke and look for a patch of cannabis plants.
Later, thousands of people came together on April 20 to celebrate marijuana. In the US, dates are written with the number of the month first, followed by the day. In this case, the date is 4/20.
Mr. Musk has smoked marijuana in public, but he said he doesn’t do it often. In court, he said, “420 wasn’t chosen as a joke; it was chosen because there was a 20% premium over the stock price.”
He also said that there was “some karma around 420,” but he added, “At this point, I’m not sure if that’s good or bad karma.”
Mr. Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion last year. On Friday, he told the court that he didn’t think his tweets had changed the price of Tesla shares.
“Just because I post something on Twitter doesn’t mean people will believe it or act on it,” he told the jury.
Mr. Musk also criticized “evil” short-sellers, who bet that the price of a company’s shares will go down.
He told the nine jurors, “It’s hard to understand how much Tesla was attacked by short-sellers who wanted Tesla to fail right now.”
He was crazy.
On Tuesday, Mr. Musk will continue to testify. He tried to move the trial from California to Texas because he was worried that the media coverage of the businessman would make the jury unfairly biased against him.
When he took over Twitter, which is based in San Francisco, he put thousands of people out of work.
A lawyer for Mr. Musk, Alex Spiro, said, “We don’t think we can get a fair trial in this district, period.”
Mr. Spiro said, “The news stories hurt people’s reputations.”
Judge Edward Chen said no to the request.
During the jury selection process, potential jurors had a lot of different things to say about Mr. Musk. Some people called him “clever” and “a genius.”
Someone else said, “He’s a little off his rocker.”
One woman said, “He’s not a very friendly person,”
When the judge asked if that meant she wouldn’t be fair to him, the woman said, “A lot of people aren’t always likeable. Sometimes I don’t even like my husband.”