Tesla to remain publicly traded, as Elon Musk says shareholders believe company is 'better off'
- Tesla will remain a publicly traded company, CEO Elon Musk said in a late blog post on Friday.
- "Although the majority of shareholders I spoke to said they would remain with Tesla if we went private, the sentiment, in a nutshell, was “please don’t do this," Musk said.
Tesla will remain a publicly traded company, CEO Elon Musk said late Friday, just weeks after he floated the idea of going private in order to ward off short-sellers and volatility in the company's stock.
In early August, Musk touched off a firestorm by saying on Twitter that he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 per share, adding that funding was "secured." In the wake of that announcement, the billionaire and his company have been buffeted by skepticism, in addition to the threat of a regulatory probe.
However, in a post on Tesla's website, Musk cited resistance from shareholders, in addition to other logistical hurdles, as rendering the proposition unattractive.
"Given the feedback I've received, it's apparent that most of Tesla's existing shareholders believe we are better off as a public company," Musk wrote. "There is also no proven path for most retail investors to own shares if we were private."
Musk appeared to heed a growing furor among Tesla's investors, with a few expressing their disapproval amid the CEO's increasingly erratic public behavior.
"Although the majority of shareholders I spoke to said they would remain with Tesla if we went private, the sentiment, in a nutshell, was 'please don't do this,'" Musk wrote.
ARK Invest CEO Cathie Wood, who predicted Tesla stock could reach $4,000 per share, told CNBC in an interview that Musk would sabotage his own goals for the automaker if the company went dark.
"By going private [Musk] would deprive Tesla of reaching his own priorities — mobility as a service, autonomous truck platoons, utility energy storage, even air passenger drones," Wood told CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Friday. "He's got big plans, and he needs to scale these plans. We don't think that it will happen nearly as effectively in the private markets as in the public."
Musk, who's waged a war of words against bearish investors betting on Tesla's stock to fall, said that going dark could prove more problematic than expected.
"I knew the process of going private would be challenging, but it's clear that it would be even more time-consuming and distracting than initially anticipated. This is a problem because we absolutely must stay focused on ramping Model 3 and becoming profitable," he wrote on Friday. "We will not achieve our mission of advancing sustainable energy unless we are also financially sustainable."
In recent days, evidence cast doubt on Musk's claim that Tesla had adequate investor capital secured for going private. Musk was on the verge of hiring Morgan Stanley because the bank excels in rounding up financing from a wide array of sources, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC this week.
The decision to stay publicly traded may not keep regulators at bay. The Securities and Exchange Commission having served Tesla with a subpoena last week, as it looks into whether Musk violated securities laws by claiming he had funding for the maneuver.
Musk himself has been under pressure for his own conduct, especially in the wake of a widely circulated interview with The New York Times in which he discussed the toll of the "excruciating" year he has had leading Tesla as it raced to meet Model 3 production goals.
Below is the full blog post Musk posted to Tesla's website:
Earlier this month, I announced that I was considering taking Tesla private. As part of the process, it was important to understand whether our current investors believed this would be a good strategic move and whether they would want to participate in a private Tesla.
Our investors are extremely important to me. Almost all have stuck with us from the time we went public in 2010 when we had no cars in production and only a vision of what we wanted to be. They believe strongly in our mission to advance sustainable energy and care deeply about our success.
I worked with Silver Lake, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, who have world-class expertise in these matters, to consider the many factors that would come into play in taking Tesla private, and to process all the incoming interest that we received from investors to fund a go-private transaction. I also spent considerable time listening to current shareholders, large and small, to understand what they think would be in the best long-term interests of Tesla.
Based on all the discussions that have taken place over the last couple of weeks and a thorough consideration of what is best for the company, a few things are clear to me:
- Given the feedback I've received, it's apparent that most of Tesla's existing shareholders believe we are better off as a public company. Additionally, a number of institutional shareholders have explained that they have internal compliance issues that limit how much they can invest in a private company. There is also no proven path for most retail investors to own shares if we were private. Although the majority of shareholders I spoke to said they would remain with Tesla if we went private, the sentiment, in a nutshell, was "please don't do this."
- I knew the process of going private would be challenging, but it's clear that it would be even more time-consuming and distracting than initially anticipated. This is a problem because we absolutely must stay focused on ramping Model 3 and becoming profitable. We will not achieve our mission of advancing sustainable energy unless we are also financially sustainable.
- That said, my belief that there is more than enough funding to take Tesla private was reinforced during this process.
After considering all of these factors, I met with Tesla's Board of Directors yesterday and let them know that I believe the better path is for Tesla to remain public. The Board indicated that they agree.
Moving forward, we will continue to focus on what matters most: building products that people love and that make a difference to the shared future of life on Earth. We've shown that we can make great sustainable energy products, and we now need to show that we can be sustainably profitable. With all the progress we've made on Model 3, we're positioned to do this, and that's what the team and I are going to be putting all of our efforts toward.
Thank you to all of our investors, customers and employees for the support you've given our company. I'm incredibly excited to continue leading Tesla as a public company. It is a privilege.
--CNBC's Chloe Aiello and Alex Sherman contributed to this article.