Entrepreneurs

Elon Musk says story that he fired his assistant when she asked for a raise is ‘total nonsense’

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla
Photo by Bloomberg
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla

An anecdote that paints Elon Musk as a ruthless boss from Ashlee Vance's 2015 New York Times bestseller, "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future," was resurfaced Wednesday. And though Musk is busy running a gaggle of companies all trying to change the world, he is not too busy to set the record straight.

The story "is total nonsense," says Musk, who commented on Thursday.

Vance wrote that when Musk's assistant of 12 years, Mary Beth Brown, asked for a raise, Musk told her to take two weeks off. Musk took on Brown's duties, so the story goes, and when she returned from vacation, Musk let her go because he realized he didn't need her.

Business Insider painted the anecdote as "an important career lesson." Entrepreneur picked up the story, too. And Fortune promoted the Business Insider story on its Facebook page.

The CEO of Tesla and Space X categorically refuted the story in a string of tweets.

"Ashlee Vance's biography is mostly correct, but also rife with errors and never independently fact-checked, despite my request that he do so. Of all the bogus anecdotes, this one troubles me the most. Ashlee never actually ran this story by me or my assistant. It is total nonsense.

"Mary Beth was an amazing assistant for over 10 years, but as company complexity grew, the role required several specialists vs one generalist," Musk tweets. "MB was given 52 weeks of salary and stock in appreciation for her great contribution and left to join a small firm, once again as a generalist."

Musk goes on to say there are other inaccuracies in the biography. "There are dozens of bogus or half-true anecdotes don't really matter and maybe five to 10 that do. Guess I could post for those interested," he says.

The list of inaccuracies is "coming soon" he promises in another tweet.

Despite the claims from Musk, Vance defends his reporting. "That anecdote is very well sourced. I stand behind that story and, of course, the entire book," he wrote in an email to CNBC Make It.

This story has been updated to include a response from Ashlee Vance.

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