It was an old joke at Tesla among executives: If you get too close to CEO Elon Musk, you’ll burn out. Flying under the radar, rather than too close to the sun, was a survival strategy at the company.
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In Greek mythology, Icarus ignores his father’s warnings and flies too high, causing his wax wings to melt. Icarus falls into the sea and drowns.
Musk now appears to be entering his own potentially dangerous Icarus phase. With a net worth of more than $ 300 billion, Musk is the richest person of all time. It owns about 20% of Tesla and about half of SpaceX. His personal fortune has exploded as the world increasingly embraces electric vehicles and manned spaceflight alike. In Tesla’s home state of California, until the company moves its headquarters to Austin, that is, zero-emission vehicles now account for 11% of new car sales.
Read: Tesla Shares Drop After Musk Tweeted Hertz Deal Not Yet Closed
Most entrepreneurs flying at Musk’s level would win, think about their succession plans, and begin to focus more directly on their philanthropy.
But Musk has recently become emboldened, and his youthful hits on Twitter are reaching new heights. He mocked Jeff Bezos with a number 2 medal as the gap between his wealth widened. He’s taken a growing number of shots at President Joe Biden that sound like they’re GOP talking points. He told the director of the United Nations World Food Program that he would donate $ 6 billion to fight hunger in the world, if WFP opened the accounting of its expenses.
Read: Elon Musk Says Taxing Billionaires Won’t Lighten Debt Burden
Last week, Hertz announced plans to buy 100,000 Tesla, a hugely successful deal that featured Tom Brady ads and the fact that Hertz will pay full price for the vehicles. Now Musk is pouring cold water on him, saying “no contract has been signed.” Tesla shares fell on Tuesday.
“As we announced last week, Hertz has placed an initial order for 100,000 Tesla EVs and is investing in new EV charging infrastructure across the company’s global operations,” the car rental company said in a statement. emailed on Tuesday. “Deliveries of the Teslas have already started. We are seeing very strong initial demand for Teslas in our rental fleet … reflecting market demand for Tesla vehicles. ”
What, exactly, is Musk doing? If there is no contract, why did Hertz announce it? Are you still negotiating the terms? Or is Musk, hypersensitive to the idea that Tesla is “throwing” the Model 3 at a car rental company, is using his platform to remind Hertz that they are not receiving any special favors?
I’ve covered Tesla for a decade, and the company’s arc from the fledgling Silicon Valley startup to the world’s most valuable automaker has been remarkable. Along the way, Musk has broken the mold of what it means to be a modern CEO and gotten away with it, whether it’s smoking marijuana on a podcast, lobbying an outgoing executive, or being sued for securities fraud. Legions of fanatics love him for his swagger and cheekiness; The Tesla board accepts it.
I hope that, for his own sake and that of his employees, Musk doesn’t crash and burn. It has proven to be its worst enemy: self-sabotage in times of stress (see: 2018); becoming extremely arrogant when things go well. He is 50 years old and has many more to pursue his dreams of colonizing Mars and ushering in a clean energy revolution. The biggest risk, at this juncture, may be your own arrogance.
© 2021 Bloomberg