Elon Musk says Tesla 'probably would not' take money from Saudi Arabia now

  • Interviewed by Recode's Kara Swisher, Musk was asked directly about his thoughts on the death of Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime.
  • Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor last week acknowledged for the first time that Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey was "premeditated."
  • Musk added that it was important to differentiate between the Saudi government and the rest of the country.

Tesla "probably would not" take money from Saudi Arabia in the wake of the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Chief Executive Elon Musk said.

Musk and his electric car manufacturer hit headlines in August after the billionaire put out a tweet saying that he was considering taking the firm private at $420 per share.

Later explaining his tweet in a blog post, Tesla's boss said he had been approached by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund "multiple times" about the prospect of taking Tesla private, and that it has bought a nearly 5 percent stake in Tesla through the public market. Plans for a take-private deal were subsequently shelved.

In an interview with Recode's Kara Swisher, which was published early Friday morning, Musk was asked directly about his thoughts on the death of Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime.

"Yeah, I mean, that sounds pretty bad. So ... that is not good. That is bad," he said.

Asked whether he would accept Saudi money now, following Khashoggi's death, Musk said: "I think we probably would not."

Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor last week acknowledged for the first time that Khashoggi's killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey was "premeditated," deviating from previous claims that his death was unintended.

The Arab kingdom initially denied any involvement in his disappearance, saying the Washington Post journalist had left the consulate unharmed. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said he is cooperating with Turkey over Khashoggi's killing, and that those found guilty will be brought to justice.

Musk, asked about the influence of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund in Silicon Valley, added that it was important to recognize that not all Saudi cash is the same.

He said: "I think we should just consider that there is a whole country, and there's, you know ... There are a lot of good people in Saudi Arabia, and Saudis who are outside of Saudi Arabia. So I think you cannot paint an entire country with one brush."

Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) is a major backer of SoftBank's $100 billion Vision Fund, which has been ploughing cash into Silicon Valley's start-up economy. The PIF has already committed $45 billion to the fund, and Saudi Arabia's crown prince said last month the PIF plans to invest another $45 billion into the Japanese firm's second major fund.

The relationship between SoftBank and Saudi Arabia appears to have become increasingly uncertain, however, following the controversy surrounding Khashoggi. Masayoshi Son, the firm's chief executive, reportedly backed out of the country's high-profile Future Investment Initiative business conference last month.

Various other tech executives withdrew from the investment conference, including Uber's Dara Khosrowshahi, Google's Diane Greene and Simon Segars of Arm Holdings — which is fully owned by SoftBank.