There are few interesting tidbits of information coming out of Tesla’s SEC filing in regard to the proposed merger with SolarCity, like the fact Tesla is currently planning another round of financing, but now we also have a detailed timeline of the behind the scene work for the merger and it includes an interesting information.
CEO Elon Musk first brought up the idea of buying SolarCity to Tesla’s board 6 months ago (Feb 2016), but the board turned him down at the time. The automaker only started considering the merger 3 months later.
Musk first had an informal conversation with his cousin and SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive about considering merging the companies in February 2016. On the 29th of the month, Rive joined Musk for a special meeting of the Tesla Board during which they presented the idea for consideration.
The next step would have been for the board to launch an evaluation of an official proposal, but according to the filing today, the board decided not to “due to the potential impact on Tesla management’s time and resources in light of Tesla’s execution of ongoing operational and strategic initiatives, including Tesla’s ongoing production ramp of its Model X vehicle.”
Indeed, the production ramp for the Model X was rough during the first quarter. At the time, Musk said that he was sleeping on the assembly line to supervise the production ramp. It looks like he was willing to take up a bigger workload with now a merger to manage, but the board stopped him.
It took another 3 months before they started moving forward with the consideration of a merger. On May 31, 2016, the Tesla Board held another meeting during which Musk – with CFO Jason Wheeler and General Counsel Todd Maron – brought up the idea again. After the meeting, the firm hired outside counsel to evaluate a possible acquisition of SolarCity.
A few weeks later, a deal was announced and the rest has been widely covered.
Here we lifted the timeline from the informal conversation about the merger between Musk and Rive to the official announcement of the proposed merger:
In February 2016, Mr. Elon Musk suggested to Mr. Lyndon Rive that he believed more serious consideration of a potential combination between Tesla and SolarCity was in order. It was noted in this discussion that a combination could offer, among other things, the potential for creating differentiated products and services, including by combining Tesla’s battery technology with SolarCity’s product offerings and business model, bringing together the two companies’ brands and combining resources to develop new and innovative products. This discussion never progressed beyond a high-level, conceptual stage, and no proposal was made at such time.
Following the conceptual discussion between Messrs. Elon Musk and Lyndon Rive, on February 29, 2016, at a special meeting of the Tesla Board, Mr. Jason Wheeler, Tesla’s Chief Financial Officer, presented to the Tesla Board preliminary considerations related to product and operational synergies that might result from an acquisition of SolarCity, based upon publicly available information regarding SolarCity. Following discussion, the Tesla Board determined not to proceed with the evaluation of a potential strategic acquisition of a solar energy company, due to the potential impact on Tesla management’s time and resources in light of Tesla’s execution of ongoing operational and strategic initiatives, including Tesla’s ongoing production ramp of its Model X vehicle.
A little more than three months later on May 31, 2016, the Tesla Board held a regular meeting at which Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Todd Maron, Tesla’s General Counsel, were present. At the meeting, Mr. Elon Musk raised the topic of potential strategic opportunities in the solar energy space, and the Tesla Board discussed with Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Maron the possible benefits and detriments of proceeding with an acquisition of a solar energy company in the context of Tesla’s existing strategic plan, including the possibility of evaluating in the future an acquisition of SolarCity. Following discussion, the Tesla Board directed Tesla management to assess a potential acquisition of a solar energy company, including, among other things, assisting the Tesla Board in connection with its review and evaluation of (1) the strategic rationale of an acquisition of SolarCity or other potential acquisition targets in the solar energy industry; (2) the financial analysis and impact to Tesla of such an acquisition, including illustrative valuation and acquisition premiums for potential acquisitions; (3) the optimal form of purchase consideration (cash or stock or both) in a potential transaction; (4) how and when to approach a potential acquisition target and negotiate and execute a transaction consistent with Tesla’s strategic objectives; and (5) risks inherent in any such potential acquisition. The Tesla Board also directed management to instruct Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (“ Wachtell Lipton ”), as special outside counsel, to assist in the legal analysis relating to a potential transaction, and to engage an independent financial advisor to assist in a financial analysis of a potential transaction.
Following that meeting, at the Tesla Board’s direction, Evercore was engaged as independent financial advisor to Tesla and the Tesla Board in connection with its evaluation of a potential strategic acquisition of a solar energy company, including to undertake a comprehensive review of the solar energy industry. The Tesla Board selected Evercore as its independent financial advisor after considering its experience in mergers and acquisitions, particularly in technology, and the absence of material conflicts on the part of Evercore.
On June 2, 2016, representatives of Party A, a potential strategic counterparty for a business combination transaction with SolarCity, met with SolarCity management for an introductory meeting when a Party A management delegation was visiting the Silicon Valley area on other business. No specific transaction or proposal was discussed at this meeting and no proposal was made for a business combination transaction with SolarCity.
Between June 5 and June 20, 2016, representatives of Evercore worked with Tesla management to conduct a preliminary financial analysis of certain strategic and financial alternatives in the solar energy industry available to Tesla, including a potential acquisition of SolarCity.
On June 20, 2016, the Tesla Board held a special meeting at which members of Tesla management, representatives of Evercore and representatives of Wachtell Lipton were present. Representatives of Wachtell Lipton reviewed with the Tesla Board certain legal matters, including the Tesla Board’s fiduciary duties in relation to a potential acquisition of SolarCity or another solar energy company. After discussion, the Tesla board determined that the strategic vision, expertise and perspectives of Messrs. Elon Musk and Antonio Gracias would continue to be helpful to the Tesla Board’s evaluation of a potential acquisition of a solar energy company because of their involvement in the solar industry, but that Messrs. Elon Musk and Antonio Gracias, as a result of their service on the SolarCity Board, should recuse themselves from any vote by the Tesla Board on matters relating to a potential acquisition of SolarCity, including evaluation, negotiation and approval of the economic terms of any such acquisition, and that the members of the Tesla Board other than Messrs. Elon Musk and Antonio Gracias should have the opportunity to deliberate with respect to any potential SolarCity transaction outside the presence of Messrs. Elon Musk and Antonio Gracias. The Tesla Board also determined that, in the event that Tesla were to proceed with a potential acquisition of SolarCity, the consummation of such acquisition would be conditioned on the approval of a majority of disinterested SolarCity stockholders and Tesla stockholders voting on the transaction. Representatives of Evercore then presented to the Tesla Board an overview, based upon publicly available information, of the solar energy industry, as well as an analysis of various potential targets in the solar energy industry, including Evercore’s view that SolarCity was the most attractive asset for Tesla in the solar energy industry should it decide to pursue an acquisition in that industry. The Tesla Board then discussed with representatives of Evercore and Tesla management matters related to a potential acquisition of SolarCity, including potential customer, product and operational synergies between the companies, the financial and capital profile and valuation of SolarCity, the structure and timing of a potential acquisition, and the due diligence that would need to be conducted on SolarCity following a potential preliminary acquisition proposal. Messrs. Elon Musk and Gracias recused themselves and left the meeting and, following further deliberation by the other members of the Tesla Board and discussion with representatives of Evercore and Tesla management, including with respect to the value and structure of a potential acquisition proposal for SolarCity, the Tesla Board (with Messrs. Elon Musk and Gracias absent, having recused themselves) approved the making of a preliminary, non-binding proposal, expressly subject, among other things, to the satisfactory completion by Tesla of due diligence with respect to SolarCity, to acquire all of the SolarCity common stock at an exchange ratio of 0.122 to 0.131 shares of Tesla common stock (representing value of $26.50 to $28.50 per share of SolarCity common stock based on the volume weighted average price of shares of Tesla common stock on the NASDAQ for the five days ending June 20, 2016) for each share of SolarCity common stock. The closing price of SolarCity common stock on June 20, 2016 was $21.88.
On June 20, 2016, Tesla representatives provided to SolarCity management a written proposal, on behalf of the Tesla Board, to acquire all of SolarCity’s issued and outstanding shares of common stock, subject to the completion of due diligence, at an exchange ratio of 0.122 to 0.131 shares of Tesla common stock for each share of SolarCity common stock. The proposal letter stated that, in light of Mr. Elon Musk’s status as a stockholder of SolarCity, the proposal would be publicly disclosed the following day. Later on June 20, 2016, Tesla provided SolarCity with a draft non-disclosure agreement that would allow the parties to conduct due diligence on each other.
On June 21, 2016, Tesla announced on its website blog that it had made a preliminary proposal to the SolarCity Board to acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of SolarCity common stock and included the letter that had been delivered to SolarCity on behalf of the Tesla Board the previous day. Mr. Elon Musk also filed an amendment to his Schedule 13D with respect to his ownership of SolarCity common stock disclosing the Tesla proposal.