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Elon Musk says his SpaceX shares would've funded his plan to take Tesla private

The Tesla chief took the witness stand again to defend his 2018 'funding secured' tweets.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is questioned by the investors' attorney Nicholas Porritt before Judge Edward Chen as a screen displays one of Musk's tweets, during a securities-fraud trial at federal court in San Francisco, California, U.S., January 23, 2023 in this courtroom sketch. REUTERS/Vicki Behringer
Vicki Behringer / reuters
Mariella Moon
Mariella Moon|@mariella_moon|January 24, 2023 12:49 AM

Elon Musk said he could've sold his SpaceX shares to take Tesla private when he took the witness stand again to defend his 2018 "funding secured" tweets in a lawsuit filed by the automaker's shareholders. According to CNBC, Musk proclaimed: "SpaceX stock alone meant 'funding secured' by itself. It's not that I want to sell SpaceX stock but I could have, and if you look at the Twitter transaction — that is what I did. I sold Tesla stock to complete the Twitter transaction. And I would have done the same here." He didn't say how many of his shares he'd have to sell, however, to be able to fund the transaction. 

The plaintiffs' lawsuit is based on Musk's infamous 2018 tweets in which he said he was "considering taking Tesla private at $420." He even said that he already had "[f]unding secured." Musk first took the stand for this particular case last week to defend himself against the plaintiffs' accusations that the tweets he made cost them significant financial losses. Tesla's shares temporarily stopped trading after those tweets and remained volatile in the weeks that followed. He said at the time that just because he tweets something "does not mean people believe it or will act accordingly."

This time, Musk reiterated his previous claim that he had an agreement with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund to take Tesla private. He told the court that the country was "unequivocal" in its support of the transaction, which ultimately didn't go through. According to Bloomberg, the court discussed his communication and eventual falling out with Saudi fund governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan regarding the deal. A text exchange was reportedly presented to the jury, wherein Musk accused Al-Rumayyan of backing out of their handshake agreement. The Saudi official responded that he didn't have sufficient information to be able to commit to the buyout and called Musk's public announcement of their discussions "ill advised."

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The plaintiffs' lawyer also asked Musk what many of us were probably wondering: If the $420 share price in his tweets was made as a joke in reference to marijuana. Apparently, it wasn't a joke, and he chose it "because it reflected about a 20 percent premium on Tesla's stock price." Musk is expected to testify again on Tuesday, so we'll likely hear more details about his failed bid to convert Tesla into a private entity. 

As Bloomberg notes, the judge in this case had already determined that his tweets were "objectively false and reckless." However, the plaintiffs still have to prove that Musk knew his tweets were misleading and that his tweets caused their losses to win the case. Musk and Tesla previously had to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission $20 million each to settle a separate lawsuit over the same tweets, accusing him of making "false and misleading statements" that could be constituted as fraud. The CEO said on the stand that he told the SEC about SpaceX and that the plaintiffs' lawyer "deliberately exclud[ed] that from jurors."

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Elon Musk says his SpaceX shares would've funded his plan to take Tesla private