'This is a financial analyst call, this is not a TED talk,' says analyst after Musk's 'bonehead' taunt

  • Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi says earnings calls are meant to be a time for analysts to gather as much information about a company as possible.
  • While Elon Musk is a genius and has his quirks, Sacconaghi said investors are concerned that he was especially dismissive on Wednesday.

Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi, one of the analysts Elon Musk cut off on a Tesla earnings call Wednesday night, said the CEO's behavior could be seen as a "worrisome sign."

"This is a financial analyst call, this is not a TED talk," Sacconaghi told CNBC on "Halftime Report" on Thursday.

Musk interrupted a question Sacconaghi was asking, calling it a "boring bonehead question," then the CEO interrupted another analyst in much the same way and turned the conversation over to shareholder Gali Russell, who spent more than 20 minutes asking questions via YouTube.

Tesla was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

Toni Sacconaghi recounts his exchange with Tesla CEO Musk

Sacconaghi attributed some of Musk's behavior on Wednesday to Musk's quirks, saying the Tesla CEO is a "visionary" who thinks decades ahead and may not always enjoy getting caught up in near-term financial minutiae.

He also added that Tesla's chief financial officer, Deepak Ahuja, was quite accessible after the call and he was able to ask several more questions at that time.

But the earnings call was a principle investor concern.

"I think generally speaking, when CEOs are evasive around number questions, that is worrisome," Sacconaghi said. He added, it suggests the CEO is either not focused on numerical or financial issues, or is worried the numbers don't tell a good story.

"When financial questions are asked, they should be addressed," he said. If Musk did not want to field more questions on Tesla's finances, he could defer to a CFO, noting that neither Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos nor IBM CEO Ginni Rometty are present on their quarterly earnings calls, leaving the work to other executives.

And from time to time executives will steer conversations with analysts who are asking too many questions, and Musk has dismissed questions in the past.

"What struck investors last night was that the dismissiveness was heightened, relative to what Elon had done before and what is commonplace on earnings calls," he said.

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