Elon Musk is Having a Rough Start to 2023

By Leila Rocha

Elon Musk – former richest person in the world – has had a less than desirable launch into the 2023 new year. From starting off with drastically less money than he has had in previous years to facing a trial which includes how Musk made tweets regarding taking Tesla private for $420 a share which investors claim cost them a huge amount. 

Musk ended 2022 with losing almost a couple hundred dollars…well a couple hundred billion dollars. The Guinness World Records acknowledged him as the person with the “Largest loss of personal fortune”. He stripped Masayoshi Son of this title (who lost $58.6 billion in 2000) after Musk lost $182 billion since 2021. 

Musk’s major decrease in net worth is from Tesla’s poor stock performance that spiraled down 65% in 2022. Additionally, since April, Musk sold $19.3 billion in Tesla shares.

Musk bought Twitter which ultimately resulted in some investors worried that he is more focused on the social media outlet and believe he should be more focused on Tesla. Whether or not it was too much, Musk did have attention on Twitter in 2022. On April 14, he announced that he had made an offer ($54.20 per share) to buy all of Twitter. 

He aimed to make Twitter more open to free speech stating: “I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a social imperative for a functioning democracy.”

His idea sparked controversy to which he responded: “By “free speech”, I simply mean that which matches the law. I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask [the] government to pass laws to that effect. Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.” 

Twitter actually sued Musk in May, and according to CBS it was to “enforce the rules of their acquisition agreement after Musk tried to back out.” He countersued and claimed the “company committed fraud, breach of contract and violated securities law.” 

He officially gained Twitter in October 2022. ABC News explained some of his first actions as owner: “In the ensuing days, Musk fired top executives, laid off half of the company’s staff, formed a content moderation council that will review account reinstatements and revamped the platform’s subscription service.” He also let CEO Parag Agrawal go during the firing spree. 

Regardless of the drama with the social media outlet, Musk took to Twitter on December 30, 2022 to state: “Long-term fundamentals are extremely strong. Short-term market madness is unpredictable.” The year, of course, ended soon after with Musk no longer being the richest person – though he is still rich with over $100 billion. 

Aside from entering the new year with billions less, Musk was not invited to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The forum that takes place every year is filled with CEOs (that are billionaires), world leaders, and others that hold influence discussing problems around the world such as war and financial crisis. The cost to a member depends on how much a person is affiliated and goes from $130,000 to $921,000.

The forum has racked up some controversy. AP News explains, “The gathering has been criticized for a lack of concrete action that emerges after a series of sessions and speeches, while the forum itself has been the target of online conspiracy theories from those who believe the meeting involves a group of elites manipulating global events for their own benefit.”

Musk has publicly spoken against the forum stating, “How is WEF/Davos even a thing?” He claimed in December: “My reason for declining the Davos invitation was not because I thought they were engaged in diabolical scheming, but because it sounded boring af lol.” However, according to a spokesman for the Forum, Yann Zopf, Musk had not received an invitation from them since 2015. 

Musk’s drama does not end here. Just this week, he began a trial with nine jurors in San Francisco, where he is unpopular, about – according to The Guardian – “whether Musk cheated investors of  “billions” by  asserting in 2018 tweets that he had “secured” financing to take the electric automaker private.” 

Musk’s attorney – Alex Spiro – claims that Musk’s tweet about turning Tesla into a private company instead of keeping it as a public company was to display that he was – according to Rob Wile’s article detailing an update on the ongoing trial from NBC News – “being transparent about discussions that had occurred with Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund about a potential deal.”

Musk wanted to take Tesla private. AP News detailed: “…Musk said he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 a share, a healthy premium to the stock’s trading price at the time. But Musk has never been able to show that funding was secured. The take-private deal never happened, but the whole of the company swung by roughly $14 billion as investors tried to sort out what was real and what was not.”

So far, lawyers for the investors in the trial have asked the US District Judge – Edward Chen – to ignore testimonies about his tweets being true. They told him: “You must also reject and disregard any fact, testimony, or argument that [Musk] acted innocently, in good faith, or anything less than recklessly.”

On January 18, 2023 during opening arguments for the trial in San Francisco, Musk’s lawyer stated: “[Musk’s] mind was pure. His intentions were sincere. He was operating in good faith” and claimed fraud was not present.  The trial is ongoing and Musk himself is supposed to testify – possibly on Friday, January 20 (trial day three). Whether or not Musk will win is of course uncertain at this time. 

Elon Musk is widely known and his companies such as Tesla are widely supported, but that has not saved him from controversies, massive financial loss, trials, and having his potential lies exposed. Will he get it together as the year goes on or will he remain under fire?

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