Several media reports are claiming that Tesla’s board of directors is coming down on CEO Elon Musk over his recent comments and behavior regarding his plan to take the company private.

The board has now released a statement backing Musk after he admits to difficult times in an interview.

In an interview with the New York Times, Musk admitted to be under a lot of stress and overworked:

“This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career. It was excruciating.”

He claims to have been working around 120 hours per week and spent days at a time at the factory without ever getting out.

The CEO says that “the worst is over from a Tesla operational standpoint,” but he fears the worst is yet to come for him personally:

“I thought the worst of it was over — I thought it was. The worst is over from a Tesla operational standpoint. But from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come.”

It seems like he is being affected by the relentless smear campaign against him, which he believes to be led by the short sellers who often promote ridiculous stories about him and Tesla.

He said:

“at least a few months of extreme torture from the short-sellers, who are desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla’s destruction.”

Some recent reports based on anonymous sources claimed that Tesla’s board was turning on him over his use of Twitter, which he often used to dispel some of those narratives.

Other reports even suggested that the board is concerned about Musk’s drug use. He has been accused of being on anything from weed to cocaine without any evidence.

But in the interview with the Times, Musk admitted to relying on Ambien to get some sleep.

The report also states that Tesla is actively looking for a COO to take over some of Musk’s responsibilities at Tesla. The CEO said that he is not aware that the search is active, but he confirmed that they approached some people in the past, including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg “a couple of years ago”.

Musk said that he plans on staying CEO and Chairman at Tesla, but he added:

“if you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”

The board has now issued a statement denying some of the rumors attributed to them over the past few weeks and reiterating their support:

“There have been many false and irresponsible rumors in the press about the discussions of the Tesla board. We would like to make clear that Elon’s commitment and dedication to Tesla is obvious. Over the past 15 years, Elon’s leadership of the Tesla team has caused Tesla to grow from a small start-up to having hundreds of thousands of cars on the road that customers love, employing tens of thousands of people around the world, and creating significant shareholder value in the process.”

Electrek’s Take

This interview is kind of worrying. If it is representative of the time they spent with him, it makes him sound on the verge of burning out.

I am no medical expert, but from experiences that have been relayed to me, relying on Ambien to fall asleep is a very bad thing.

In my opinion, Musk has been a crucial part of Tesla’s success in the past and he will remain an important part of its continued success, which I think is in turn crucial to electric vehicle adoption.

That said, he can only do that if he remains healthy. Maybe a little vacation is in order to recharge his batteries so to speak. If that’s asking too much, maybe they should compromise on him working from home for a week or too.

All that traveling between Tesla’s and SpaceX’s plants and offices can’t be good for his sleep pattern.

And of course, a good COO to take over some of the workload is not a bad idea either for the long-term. Musk has had Gwynne Shotwell for years at SpaceX and she is doing a terrific job by all accounts.

It sounds like it might have set the standard very hard for Musk when it comes to executive leadership, which might be part of what is slowing down the search for a COO at Tesla.

That’s not to say that Tesla doesn’t also have its own first-class execs like JB Straubel, Deepak Ahuja, Jerome Guillen, and several others who have been at the company for a long time. But it’s doubtful that any of them would want any more responsibilities on top of their existing insane workloads.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

About the Author