Elon Musk wants more control of Tesla, the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer that made him a multi-billionaire, to advance its position as a leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics technology.
The outspoken CEO and co-founder of Tesla used X (formerly Twitter), the social-media platform he owns, to share his discomfort about growing these technologies within the company without having more of a financial stake and thus voting control with Tesla’s board.
Musk currently has a 13% share in the company, which overall has a market cap of $764.37 billion.
“I am uncomfortable growing Tesla to be a leader in AI & robotics without having ~25% voting control,” Musk said on X. This share is “enough to be influential, but not so much that I can’t be overturned,” which means others could veto any of his technology decisions.
In fact, Musk said he might take Tesla’s AI and robotics development elsewhere —theoretically to another company — f he doesn’t get his way.
“Unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla,” he said on X. “You don’t seem to understand that Tesla is not one startup, but a dozen. Simply look at the delta between what Tesla does and GM.”
Musk also seemed to suggest that other shareholders with similar stakes in Tesla, such as Fidelity, don’t pull the same weight that he does as its CEO. “Why don’t they show up for work?” he said.
Comments spark more controversy
Tesla did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The company’s leader is certainly no stranger to controversy — in fact many industry watchers argue Musk relishes it. The comments — perceived by some as a power and money grab that threatens Tesla’s business by taking technology innovation outside the company — spurred even more.
“Let me get this straight…, Elon wants another 450M new shares ($100B) or conversion of existing shares into super-voting status, or he will ‘prefer to build products outside of Tesla?!’ Jim Chanos said in a post on X, the president and founder of investment firm Kynikos Associates best known for predicting the fall of Enron. “I know this is Elon, but you do realize how outrageous this is, right?”
Still others supported the idea based on Musk’s ongoing work at the company and for the good of growing the business.
“Elon has earned all of his existing shares,” Tesla investor and retired software engineer Jason DeBolt said on X. “Let’s give him a path to earn more (25% voting control) and take Tesla to the next level. He’s working harder than any of us retail investors and institutional investors…waiting for stuff to just magically happen.”
Musk seemed to suggest his interest in having more control at Tesla is not about him becoming richer, but “about ensuring the right amount of voting influence at Tesla.
“If I have 25%, it means I am influential, but can be overridden if twice as many shareholders vote against me vs for me,” he tweeted. “At 15% or lower, the for/against ratio to override me makes a takeover by dubious interests too easy.”
xAI or something new?
If Musk were to take Tesla’s AI development elsewhere, it could be as part of a new generative AI venture, dubbed xAI, he launched last year to take on the likes of ChatGPT creator OpenAI. (Musk at its inception supported Open AI as a board member; he resigned in 2018, citing a conflict of interest with Tesla’s AI development.)
Musk since has been a critic of ChatGPT and has expressed fears about the technology’s threat to the human race. In fact, his xAI advisory team includes Dan Hendrycks, the director of the Center for AI Safety, which signed an open letter warning that AI evolution could lead to an extinction event and pushing for more control over the technology.
Musk also has said that both Tesla and X will work closely with xAI, which is based in the San Francisco area, to design the new generative AI engine, which will not explicitly be programmed with morality but rather will try to understand the true nature of the universe to make it safer.
Meanwhile, even as Musk distanced himself from OpenAI, Microsoft has increased both its financial and strategic influence in the firm, setting up a potential future AI showdown between of some of the tech industry’s top leaders.
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