Elon Musk’s flagship Shares in Tesla company hit a fresh two-year low of $150.04 on Friday morning, prompting renewed concerns that the billionaire’s recent takeover and Twitter’s messy management would crumble the foundations of his financial empire.
The stock plunge came the morning after Musk booted several prominent journalists from the platform and after Musk spent most of this week dumping more than 22 million Tesla shares worth over $3.5 billion. Musk sold nearly $40 billion worth of shares in the electric vehicle maker last year.
Musk’s tumultuous takeover of Twitter, a deal announced in April and finalized in October, coincided with a truly miserable year for tech markets. But Tesla has outperformed NASDAQ’s Technology Sector Index (NDXT) by more than 20 points. As of Friday, the company is down 57.12 percent year-to-date, compared to a 35.53 percent decline in the NDXT. The company’s value has plummeted to less than $500 billion from over $1 trillion earlier this year, costing Musk his title as the “world’s richest man.”
Friday’s slump came after Musk was suspended New York Times Reporter Ryan Mac, The Washington Post‘s Drew Harwell, Mashable’s Matt Binder, CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan, The Intercept’s Micah Lee, independent reporter Aaron Rupar, political commentator Keith Olbermann and Twitter freelance journalist Tony Webster. Most had voiced criticism of Musk’s content moderation decisions. Earlier this week, Musk impulsively rewrote Twitter’s content policy to make all posts, including real-time location data, a bannable offense. The platform-wide policy change appears to have been created retrospectively to justify the platform removing the accounts of Jack Sweeney, who tracked aircraft and private jet movements using publicly available aviation data. Musk accused journalists covering Sweeney’s ban of releasing “my precise, real-time location, basically the coordinates of the assassination, in (apparent) direct violation of Twitter’s terms of service.” Rolling Stone has not identified cases where the journalists have published direct coordinates to Musk’s location.
Throughout the week, investors have urged Musk to find someone else to run Twitter’s day-to-day operations and bring his focus back to Tesla. On Wednesday, Leo KoGuan, the electric vehicle company’s third-largest investor, tweeted that Musk had “left Tesla” and that the company had “no working CEO.” After the journalistic cleanup of the platform, investor Joe Cirincion tweeted a call Musk is leaving Twitter, accusing him of “killing the company with his antics.”
The company itself has admitted that it is “heavily dependent on the services of Elon Musk, Tesla’s technoking and our chief executive officer” to run the company. If investors have taken notice, so have the big financial institutions. Goldman Sachs lowered its price targets for Tesla earlier this week, citing the increasingly “polarizing” nature of Tesla’s branding given Musk’s involvement on Twitter, and recommending the company refocus on its “core attributes of sustainability and technology.”
Musk is also threatened with sanctions abroad. European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova on Friday accused the company of violating the EU’s Digital Services Law and the Law on Freedom of the Media by “arbitrarily suspending journalists”.
“There are red lines,” she said tweeted. “And sanctions, soon.”