Tesla CEO Elon Musk at a Gruenheide factory near Berlin, Germany, May 17 2021. Picture: REUTERS/MICHELE TANTUSSI
Tesla CEO Elon Musk at a Gruenheide factory near Berlin, Germany, May 17 2021. Picture: REUTERS/MICHELE TANTUSSI

Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest person, began his Sunday sparring with US senator Bernie Sanders, who tweeted a day earlier that “we must demand that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share.” Musk even raised the notion of selling more of his Tesla  shares, which would require him to pay taxes on the gains.

“I keep forgetting that you’re still alive,” Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, tweeted in a reply to the 80-year-old senator from Vermont. In a subsequent tweet, Musk asked: “Want me to sell more stock, Bernie? Just say the word.”

Musk offloaded almost $7bn worth of Tesla stock over the past week, which helped to push the automaker’s shares down about 15% for the week. Musk’s stock sales began after he tweeted an unusual poll November 7 on Twitter asking whether he should sell. 

Musk did not  mention in his prior tweets that he had millions of stock options that must be exercised before they expire in August 2022. He said in September that he was likely to exercise “a huge block” of those options towards the end of 2021. Musk is worth about $286bn as tracked on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

In October, Musk said Tesla would move its headquarters from California to Austin, Texas, a state which levies no income tax. On Saturday, Musk tweeted that he’s been living in a small home in South Texas for the past two years. “Feels more homey to live in a small house,” he wrote.

Reuters reported Musk, Tesla’s top shareholder, tweeted eight days ago that he would sell 10% of his shares if users of the social media platform approved the move. The 10% would be about 17-million shares at the time of his tweet.

He sold 6.36-million shares last week, about 37% of 17-million. He now needs to offload about 10-million more shares to fulfil his pledge to sell 10% of his holdings.

Tesla’s share price was down 2.8% at the close on Friday at $1,033.42, snapping an 11-week winning streak. The price is up more than 46% this year after a sharp rally in October.

The share sales, the first time that Musk has cashed out on a stake of that size since the company was founded in 2003, were huge by capital market standards, eclipsing the initial public offerings of most companies.

By getting Twitter users to greenlight the move, he blunted criticism of cashing out at a time when Tesla’s valuation has become frothy and shares are at record highs.

Tesla fell 15.4% last week and lost about $187bn in market value, more than the combined market capitalisation of Ford Motor and General Motors. 

 

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