It’s characteristic of Elon Musk that he polled Twitter about whether he should sell 10% of his stake in $1 trillion electric-car maker Tesla. Following the vote, the chief executive has offloaded about $5 billion of shares this week, although at least some of the sales were flagged weeks before the tweet in question.
The disposals helped knock 12% off Tesla’s value on Tuesday, but that’s minor compared with the roughly 1,500% gain in the company’s stock price over three years. Shareholders, supporters of brash entrepreneurs and electric-vehicle advocates alike can only cheer Musk’s success.
Yet he can also be a liability. A 2018 settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over another tweet forced Musk to bring in an independent board chair, former Telstra executive Robyn Denholm. Like other directors, she has done handsomely from option grants. Hers covered shares worth more than $500 million at the end of 2020, and many are now cashed in, including nearly $30 million-worth last week. Aligning directors’ and investors’ interests makes sense. But it’s hard for anyone to hold into account a person who has made them so rich.