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Musk Says He Plans to Reduce His Time at Twitter as He Defends His $56 Billion Tesla Payment Deal

Gizmodo 11/16/2022 Kyle Barr
A sketch of Elon Musk sitting in a courtroom wearing a black suit and blue tie looking off to the side with a microphone in front of him. © Illustration: Elizabeth Williams (AP) A sketch of Elon Musk sitting in a courtroom wearing a black suit and blue tie looking off to the side with a microphone in front of him.

A courtroom sketch of Elon Musk as he worked to defend his $56 billion pay package he received from Tesla back in 2018.

Elon Musk, the owner of Tesla, SpaceX, Boring Company, Neuralink, and now Twitter, is a very busy man, or so he claims. He’s so busy, it’s hard to believe he can actually keep on top of everything going on at every one of his companies. That time management question is key to a current lawsuit that argues Musk doesn’t deserve the near $56 billion payment package Tesla handed him on a golden platter years ago, especially since he’s hardly spending time at the electric automaker lately.

Musk gave testimony at the Delaware Court of Chancery on Wednesday. It’s a place he knows well considering it was the same court that had heard Twitter’s case against Musk to force him to buy the platform for the agreed $44 billion just a few months earlier. He was also sitting in front of the same judge who heard the Twitter case, Judge Kathaleen McCormick.

According to Bloomberg, Musk testified that while he has spent the vast majority of the last few weeks dealing with Twitter, those reorganizational efforts should be done by the end of next week. Of course, Musk himself recently tweeted he was “at Twitter [San Francisco] HQ all night. Will be working & sleeping here until org is fixed.” Still, he said he wants to “reduce my time” at the office, which could mean putting somebody else in the leadership role. That may be difficult considering he keeps looking to fire more people who won’t sign on to his “hardcore” version of Twitter.

Richard Tornetta, who owns some Tesla shares, filed the lawsuit back in 2019 claiming the Tesla board had handed Musk an enormous pay package even though he was spending only about half his time at the electric car maker. The lawsuit further claims the Tesla board had too many ties to Musk, and that the billionaire was somehow involved with negotiating his massive pay package.

The board has denied those claims in court, and in reported testimony board chair Robyn Denholm claimed the pay was to motivate the company to “achieve things that were bold and audacious.” Just to tally the bold and audacious things Musk has accomplished at Tesla lately, he’s:

In his Wednesday testimony, Musk did say he had been spending a little more than 50% of his time at Tesla when he received that pay package. Still, he argued it makes sense he should be granted such grand financial boons, as he is working on “a set of actions that are good for” humanity, according to Bloomberg. Emails read out loud by the plaintiff’s attorneys in court point to Musk having pushed shareholders to approve the plan, even threatening there would be no place for shareholders in any of his companies if they did not agree, according to CNN.

Musk confirmed he had brought Tesla engineers over to Twitter so they could evaluate Twitter’s engineering staff (a portion of staff that experienced an extreme number of layoffs compared to other departments) but claimed participation was “voluntary.”

Musk took the top spot in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index last year, amassing a fortune worth over $200 billion. He had been climbing the ranks all throughout the late 2010s and early 2020s, but the $56 billion windfall of Tesla stock was what truly gave him a leg up in the lonely race to the Scrooge McDuck golden mountaintop. Last year Musk sold about 10% of his Tesla stock to, in his words, pay for taxes that he’s been criticized for avoiding.

During his deposition, Musk also took aim at a Securities and Exchange Commission consent decree that was supposed to put a stop to Musk drastically impacting stock prices with his loose-lipped tweets. The original order was part of a settlement with the SEC after the billionaire announced on his Twitter page that he was going to take Tesla private at “420 a share” (hehe, hoho, how funny). He then wrote he had “funding secured.” All that talk came to nothing, and it sent the stock price of his electric car company spinning out of control.

Where is Musk getting this opinion? Well, of course, Musk isn’t a lawyer, but he did say he has been party to enough lawsuits that apparently qualifies him to speak on it.

Musk has been trying to knock down that consent decree ever since. During this case, Musk reportedly implied that he knew that some of his most recent tweets have violated that consent agreement he signed four years ago. According to The Washington Post, Musk then tried to make the case that the agreement “was made under duress,” so it wasn’t “valid.”

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