Elon Musk’s flagship Shares of the Tesla company hit a new two-year low of $150.04 Friday morning, sparking renewed concerns that the billionaire’s recent takeover and chaotic management of Twitter are crumbling the foundations of his financial empire.
The stock plunge came the morning after Musk booted several prominent journalists from the platform and after Musk spent most of this week unloading more than 22 million shares of Tesla stock, worth more than $3.50. billion. Musk has now sold nearly $40 billion worth of shares of the electric vehicle company in the past year.
Musk’s tumultuous takeover of Twitter, a deal announced in April and finalized in October, coincided with a truly disastrous year for technology markets. But Tesla underperforms NASDAQ’s Technology Sector Index (NDXT) by more than 20 points. As of Friday, the company is down 57.12 percent year-to-date compared to the NDXT’s 35.53 percent. The company’s value has plummeted from more than $1 trillion at the start of the year to less than $500 billion, costing Musk his title of “world’s richest man” in the process.
Friday’s nosedive came after Musk was suspended New York Times reporter Ryan Mac, The Washington PostDrew Harwell of Mashable, Matt Binder of Mashable, CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan, Micah Lee of The Intercept, independent reporter Aaron Rupar, political commentator Keith Olbermann, and freelance journalist Tony Webster of Twitter. Most had criticized Musk’s content moderation decisions. Earlier this week, Musk impulsively rewrote Twitter’s content policy to make all posts, including real-time location data, an offense that can be banned. The platform-wide policy change appears to have been retroactive to justify the platform removing the accounts of Jack Sweeney, who tracked the movements of planes and private jets through publicly available aviation data. Musk accused journalists reporting on Sweeney’s ban on “posting my exact real-time location, in fact murder coordinates, in (clear) direct violation of Twitter’s terms of service.” Rolling stone has not identified any instances where the journalists post direct coordinates to Musk’s location.
Throughout the week, investors called on Musk to find someone else to run Twitter’s day-to-day operations, shifting his focus back to Tesla. On Wednesday, the EV company’s third-largest investor, Leo KoGuan, tweeted that Musk had “left Tesla” and that the company “has no working CEO.” After the journalistic purge of the platform, Joe Cirincion invested tweeted a call for Musk to leave Twitter and accuse him of “killing the company with his antics”.
The company itself has admitted that they “rely heavily on the services of Elon Musk, Tesla’s Technoking and our Chief Executive Officer” to run the company. If investors have noticed, so have major financial institutions. Goldman Sachs lowered its price targets for Tesla earlier this week, citing the increasingly “polarizing” nature of Tesla’s branding given Musk’s involvement with Twitter, and recommending the company return to its “core sustainability and technology attributes” .
Musk also faces the threat of sanctions abroad. Vera Jourova, Vice-President of the European Commission, on Friday accused the company of violating EU law on digital services and media freedom law through “arbitrary suspension of journalists”.
“There are red lines,” she said tweeted. “And soon sanctions.”