- Elon Musk blasted short-sellers as “leeches” and bemoaned their access to inside information.
- Bill Gates, Michael Burry, David Einhorn, and Jim Chanos have all targeted Tesla in recent years.
- Musk recalled the short-selling pressure he faced in 2018 in Walter Isaacson’s new biography of him.
Elon Musk has railed against short-sellers, slamming them as bloodsuckers who seek to profit from companies failing, and blasting them for nosing around his factories in 2018.
“They are leeches on the neck of business,” he told Walter Isaacson for the biographer’s new book, “Elon Musk.”
“They had up-to-date data from sources in the company and drones that flew over our factory giving them numbers in real time,” Musk told Isaacson. “They organized themselves into a shorty ground force and a shorty air force. The degree of inside information they had was insane.”
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO was recalling the events of the spring of 2018, when Tesla stock was trading at near-record levels, and Musk had told Wall Street that his Fremont car-assembly factory would produce 5,000 Model 3s a week by June — a huge jump from its output of 2,000 vehicles at the time. The upshot was that Tesla was the most-shorted stock in history during that period.
Isaacson singled out two prominent investors who were short Tesla around that time.
Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn declared in a letter to clients that the company’s “deception” would soon be revealed, and Musk was behaving erratically because he knew what was coming. Jim Chanos, a famed short-seller and Kynikos Associates’ chief, dismissed Tesla’s stock as virtually worthless too.
However, Musk worked day and night to streamline Tesla’s manufacturing process, and set up a makeshift assembly line under a tent in the Fremont factory’s parking lot. As a result, Tesla was able to hit its production goal in the nick of time, Isaacson wrote.
Musk has clashed with short-sellers many times over the years. He slammed Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates for betting against the Tesla, trashing the move as “hypocrisy” given the philanthropist’s commitment to sustainability, Isaacson said.
Gates told Isaacson that Musk was “super mean” to him after learning of his short position against Tesla, and defended the wager as simply an attempt to make money.
Michael Burry, the investor of “The Big Short” fame, has also sounded the alarm on Tesla’s valuation in recent years, and suggested its stock price could plunge by over 90%. Musk has jokingly called the Scion Asset Management boss a “bastard” for shorting Tesla, and a “broken clock ” for repeatedly making incorrect predictions.
Both Einhorn and Chanos have made bearish pronouncements about Tesla in the past few years too. The Greenlight chief dismissed the EV maker’s valuation as “silly” in a letter to clients in early 2021, and bought put options against the company in the fourth quarter of that year, which it no longer held three months later.
As for Chanos, he panned Tesla as “ridiculously overvalued” and a “hopes-and-dreams stock” this month.
However, Musk’s EV maker has defied its critics for several years now. Its stock has more than doubled this year, and surged nearly 10-fold since the start of 2020, boosting its market capitalization to above $850 billion.