Now I get why he’s called “Crazy Elon.”
Bankers who cover Elon Musk — the electric-car, space-travel and now, possibly, social-media impresario — tell me his own board members came up with that name a few years ago, long before he made a seemingly improbable $43 billion bid for Twitter.
It was around the time he was juggling about 10 things at once, including opening new factories, fending off short sellers and regulators, and trying to keep his EV car company Tesla out of bankruptcy.
As it turned out, Musk was going crazy in a visionary way. His bid to buy Twitter, the most powerful media platform in existence today, and take on the progressive social-media establishment will only enhance his reputation among his many admirers.
It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, Musk was sleeping on the Tesla factory floor, lashing out at critics on social media, and getting heat from the Securities and Exchange Commission for tweeting — falsely, it charged — that he was taking Tesla private at $420 a share.
It was a huge premium on Tesla’s then-stock price, which was sagging because investors really did think Musk was certifiable and his company was producing fugazy cars and fugazy revenues. To get out of the jam, Elon had to pay some money to the feds and promise not to tweet too much. Meanwhile, Tesla just barely managed to skirt bankruptcy and Elon appeared to just barely have kept himself out of the loony bin.
What happened next was remarkable in American entrepreneurial history: Musk, for all his weirdness, confounded the critics. He got his factories in order, built more EVs and turned Tesla profitable. In between it all, he put rockets into space. He smoked a joint with Joe Rogan, which nearly got his US security clearance revoked. But it made him a legend with the cannabis crowd, just as his dabbles in digital currencies that made him a hero with the crypto peeps.
He’s still got his fans
He also went on to create a satellite Internet venture, and a company that wants to create super-speed transportation through tunnels so people can travel at a fraction of the time and cost, and I’m sure I’m leaving a few things out.
Meanwhile, his tweets that got him in trouble now brought him new fans, often from the right, because he remade himself once again from tech visionary into a free-speech advocate. He called out Twitter for censoring conservatives. He even took on progressives who believed his EVs will save the world. Musk wasn’t afraid to admit that we need to drill and produce those gas guzzlers to help the working class, who can’t afford his stuff, get to work each day.
He angered the left, continued to annoy the SEC (he never conformed to their tweeting rules) but built a brand as an iconoclast. Tesla’s stock soared. Musk became a billionaire more than 100 times over.
If he was spread too thin, the market didn’t seem to care. Investors now bet that he might be crazy but he also might just save the world from climate disaster and a lot more.
Proof that Crazy Elon had suddenly become a cultural icon was his appearance on “Saturday Night Live.” It was a bit awkward, and at times a little weird; his South African accent often didn’t translate well into comedy. But he came off as self-deprecating, sometimes funny, and oddly relatable.
Target on his back
Maybe that’s why, on the eve of Musk doing something even more outlandishly nonconformist (and maybe even crazier in his bid to buy Twitter, the seemingly ubiquitous social-media outfit that he calls the world’s “de facto town square”), the government overseers let it leak to me and Fox Business’s Eleanor Terrett that Musk is in their crosshairs.
His old pals at the Securities and Exchange Commission and now the Justice Department have launched a joint investigation into Musk’s business activities, a source close to the matter says.
Exactly what they’re looking at isn’t known, but here are some clues: Lawyers say he didn’t file the right paperwork when accumulating his 9%+ stake in Twitter; he may not have come clean early enough on his intentions to try taking over the entire company. (Remember how for a hot minute he was on the Twitter board, which would have prevented a takeover?)
He appears to continue to flout his settlement with the SEC over his tweeting and there have always been questions over the accuracy of his disclosures about EV production rates.
These might make for a case against Musk. But he isn’t acting like a guy worried he’s guilty of something. He keeps taking on the woke corporate status quo (and the SEC, which he called “bastards” last week), something that I understand has riled up Dems who at least for now control Congress and thus the various federal regulatory agencies.
Are they looking to derail Elon from owning maybe the most important social-media platform on the planet? Are they afraid he might reinstate Donald Trump on Twitter, the politician the left hates even more than Vladimir Putin? Are they worried conservative voices might get equal billing as those on the left with Elon running the show?
You know the answers to those questions, so you shouldn’t be surprised Crazy Elon is in the crosshairs.