Elon Musk gloats to hedge fund adversary over Tesla surge, calling David Einhorn 'Mr. Unicorn'

Key Points
  • Tesla founder Elon Musk rips into Greenlight Capital founder David Einhorn.
  • Einhorn's firm saw its gains dented by its short against Tesla, which reported strong third-quarter earnings.
  • "It is understandable that you wish to save face with your investors, given the losses you suffered," Musk says.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk reacts at a post-launch news conference after the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifted off on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, March 2, 2019.
Mike Blake | Reuters

Tesla founder Elon Musk has fired back at one of his biggest hedge fund adversaries, ridiculing Greenlight Capital founder David Einhorn in a letter shared on Twitter for his position against the electric car maker.

Musk addresses Einhorn as "Mr. Unicorn" and himself as "Treelon," pointing out the losses that Greenlight has suffered due to its short position against Tesla. (Musk agreed last month to donate 1 million trees to the Arbor Day Foundation last month.)

While the company's shares are barely positive for the year, they've been on a tear lately since the company crushed third-quarter earnings estimates more than two weeks ago. The stock is up 7.1% this week and 39.8% over the past month, leading Musk to take a victory lap. He accused Einhorn of making "numerous false allegations against Tesla."

"It is understandable that you wish to save face with your investors, given the losses you suffered from Tesla's successful third quarter, especially since you've had several down years in performance and a sharp drop in assets under management from $15 billion to $5 billion," Musk wrote. "You have our sympathies."

Later in the day, Einhorn returned fire on Twitter, comparing Tesla to Greenlight.

"We both struggled last year," he wrote in a Twitter post. "However, a key difference is that Greenlight's business has generated real profits for our investors since we began in 1996."


More short shorts

In his quarterly letter to clients, Einhorn acknowledged that his Tesla position dented Greenlight's returns for the quarter, which otherwise were solidly positive. Greenlight Capital funds returned 5.6% in Q3 and are up 24% year to date, according to the letter. However, in 2018 the firm had its worst year since Einhorn founded Greenlight in 1996, losing 34%.

Einhorn charged that Tesla "continued to spin positive PR ahead of the safety and fair treatment of its customers." He also alleged that Musk "knowingly orchestrated a significant fraud by arranging the $2.6 billion acquisition at a time when SolarCity was insolvent. Musk and his family had a huge conflict of interest, but rather than properly recusing himself, Musk initiated the transaction and drove the process."

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SolarCity was founded in 2006 by Musk's cousins and his brother is a member of both companies' boards.

For his part, Musk did not address any of the specific accusations, but invited Einhorn to visit the Tesla manufacturing facility to find out for himself how well the company is operating.

Musk said he recognizes "your desire to feel somehow relevant" but added that "the world is increasingly recognizing Tesla's contributions to science, safety and a sustainable environment."

"To the extent that you have any desire to learn about the amazing progress the people of Tesla are making, I would like to extend an open invitation to meet with me to discuss Tesla and tour our facilities," Musk said. "For their sake, I'm certain your investors would appreciate you getting smart on Tesla."

Einhorn said he'd like to take Musk up on the offer but added that he'd rather seen Tesla's financial statements.

"I truly appreciate your offer to build a direct communication so we can learn more about Tesla," he wrote. "Please advise on how we should go about scheduling. And have a nice weekend."

Musk closed his letter by saying he will send a gift of "short shorts" to Einhorn, which he also did in August 2018.

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