A tale of two CEOs: Tim Cook demonstrates what some want from Elon Musk


To lose one main cash particular person from your organization could also be considered a misfortune; to lose two inside every week appears like carelessness. You don’t have to be good at numbers to determine that’s not precisely stellar optics.

CNBC reported that chief accounting officer David Morton give up Tesla on Friday — after a few month within the gig — as a result of he felt Musk wasn’t taking his recommendation on the go-private factor. (The earlier head of accounting left in March.) Michael Hiltzik on the Los Angeles Occasions says “it’s conceivable that he noticed one thing within the books that scared the hell out of him.”

Then, on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported the departure of Justin McAnear, Tesla’s vice chairman of worldwide finance. McAnear is leaving to take a CFO gig at an as-yet-unnamed firm. And people are simply the cash people! Tesla’s HR chief, Gabrielle Toledano, ankled the corporate on the identical day as Morton, as did the corporate’s VP of communications. Thirty-ish different executives have left the corporate since June.

And amid all this turnover, what is Elon Musk doing? Final Friday, I’d simply come out of Glacier Nationwide Park and hit Browning, Montana, after I obtained the primary cell service I’d had in a pair of days. I opened Twitter. And the very first thing I noticed was a GIF of Elon Musk smoking a blunt. I’m going to summarize the takes within the type of the refrain of The Speaking Heads’ “Slippery Folks:”

What’s the matter with him?
He’s all proper.
How have you learnt?
The Lord received’t thoughts.
Don’t play no video games.
He’s all proper.
Love from the underside to the highest.
Flip like a wheel.
He’s all proper.
See for your self.
The Lord received’t thoughts.

We’re going to maneuver proper now — flip like a wheel inside a wheel — to a dialogue of why the pot-smoking dominated the information cycle round this podcast. There have been a quantity of different attention-grabbing issues mentioned! Musk teased a flying automobile design he doesn’t plan (but) to pursue and prompt critical Neuralink information is forthcoming. So why are individuals targeted on the blunt?

I’ve beforehand written about the competing narratives round Musk; one thread that’s woven into the story of his erratic habits has to do with alleged drug use, although the drug cited in that case was Ambien, fairly than weed, and the priority was particularly about Ambien fueling his wilder tweets.

I’ve a guess about why the blunt lit up the online, and it has to do with symbolism. The CEO is the human face of a sprawling summary group. Typically, CEOs attempt to undertaking self-discipline, calm, and a way that irrespective of what conflicts are taking place internally, it’s all underneath management; Tim Cook gave us an ideal instance this week. The Apple occasion that he served as hypeman for was an virtually painfully managed presentation, and it despatched the message that the corporate is shipshape.

Apple doesn’t have Tesla’s baggage. It doesn’t have to sign all is underneath management in an effort to reassure anybody. However it’s the sort of signaling that tends to reassure buyers and the general public. So in any case these wild tweets, high-level departures, and manufacturing hiccups, you would possibly anticipate Musk to undertaking that he’s obtained a gentle hand on the wheel. As an alternative, he poured a whiskey and hit a blunt.

I’m specializing in Apple partly as a result of Tesla followers make the comparability themselves. “The one corresponding to Tesla’s model recognition is Apple, in our view,” wrote Nomura Instinet analyst Romit Shah in a analysis be aware this week. Shah particularly cited Musk’s “erratic habits” as a danger to Tesla, suggesting Musk’s antics distract from Tesla the corporate. The be aware options charts of Musk’s Twitter exercise by month, in addition to a timeline of latest Musk controversies, to drive house Shah’s level.

Whereas Shah has religion in Tesla as an organization (“Tesla is positioned to ship unprecedented income progress and accrue substantial income,” he mentioned), he additionally thinks the corporate wants “higher management.”

Shah’s not alone. Baillie Gifford, Tesla’s greatest institutional investor, says it spoke to the SEC in regards to the deserted “go non-public” plan Musk floated final month. And asset supervisor James Anderson advised Reuters that Musk “wants assist, and I imply that psychologically as a lot as virtually.” Quiet down, cease performing loopy.

Now, Musk’s off-the-cuff dealing with of most public appearances has served him properly together with his fan base; it offers him a sort of authenticity that Cook lacks. The free, whiskey-and-weed efficiency is the sort of factor that lots of Musk’s followers hook up with — particularly on YouTube.

Most individuals don’t have time to dig into Tesla’s financials, even when they’re financially literate sufficient to grasp them. And I can’t converse for anybody however me, however I don’t have a look at the well being of an organization earlier than I purchase a shopper product. Most customers, as a substitute, observe sentiment. Recently, that sentiment hasn’t been nice: Tesla’s vehicles are being delivered with flaws; customer support has been a “nightmare”; and simply this week, Tesla scaled again on the colours it’s providing for the Mannequin 3. Oh, proper, and additionally there’s an embarrassing factor a few Tesla crashing itself by backing out of a storage utilizing its Summon function? What’s extra, Tesla is about $10 billion in debt, hasn’t but had a yearly revenue, and is dropping lots of senior expertise.

Tesla doesn’t promote, so it’s depending on Musk’s “earned media” (that’s the technical title for it!) appearances to assist set up sentiment. And now that there are actual considerations in regards to the long-term stability of the corporate, it’s a bit of bizarre to see the CEO sipping whiskey and smoking weed like he doesn’t have a care on this planet. It’s not precisely the sort of sentiment anybody who’s feeling skittish about Tesla’s future goes to understand.

An terrible lot of shareholders appear to consider chaos is a ladder for Tesla’s final success since Tesla’s inventory is up this week after falling final Friday. However even their confidence could also be slipping: choices knowledge means that proudly owning Tesla shares is “is near the riskiest it has ever been,” in line with Reuters. That’s not all. The value on Tesla’s junk bonds additionally slid to about 85 cents on the greenback final week, in line with MarketWatch.

This may all appear acquainted to longtime Muskwatchers who’ve been navigating public sentiment that feels, at occasions, like a really unusual curler coaster experience. Musk isn’t going wherever. Even when the board wished to eject him, I believe you’d have to pull him out kicking and screaming, leaving claw marks throughout his desk. There’s lots of noise however no actual indication that something goes to alter anytime quickly.

Ultimately, both Tesla will slide into profitability, as Musk has prompt we must always anticipate this yr, or the market will lose endurance. However this week in Elon feels a bit of like groundhog day: one other week of shouting with no apparent final result. Flip like a wheel inside a wheel.

with reporting by Sean O’Kane




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