Tesla board mulling Musk’s idea to take company private

In this Sunday, July 8, 2018, photograph, 2018 Model 3 sedans sit on display outside a Tesla showroom in Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Tesla said on Wednesday its board is evaluating chief executive Elon Musk’s idea of taking the company private after he brought the matter up for discussion last week.

Musk took Tesla shareholders and the stock market by surprise on Tuesday by announcing on Twitter he was considering taking the loss-making electric carmaker private at $420 a share. In his first tweet, he said funding was secured, but provided no details.

That would mark the biggest such transaction in history, worth more than $70 billion.

In a statement on Tesla’s website Wednesday, six of Tesla’s nine directors said the board had met several times over the last week to discuss the idea and was “taking the appropriate next steps to evaluate this.”

They said the board also addressed the issue of how to fund such a deal, but gave no details.

Tesla’s shares were down slightly, at $377.38, in morning trading Wednesday after closing up 11 percent, at $379.57 on Tuesday.

In a letter to shareholders after his tweet Tuesday, Musk fleshed out his idea, suggesting they would get the option to sell their shares for $420 each or remain investors in a private Tesla, out of the glare of Wall Street and its need for quarterly results.

He said that would allow Tesla to “operate at its best, free from as much distraction and short-term thinking as possible.”

Some Wall Street analysts are skeptical of Musk’s ability to gather the financial backing to complete such a deal.

“Who gives $30 to $50 billion to buy back the shares?,” asked NordLB analyst Frank Schwope. “And if you stay as a shareholder, you get less information than before and you depend more and more on Elon Musk.”

JPMorgan analyst Ryan Brinkman said he gave only a 50 percent probability that Tesla would go private.

The six board members who issued the statement Wednesday included James Murdoch, chief executive of Twenty-First Century Fox, and Brad Buss, who was the chief financial officer of solar panel maker SolarCity until it was bought by Tesla in 2016.

Other board members mentioned in the statement included Robyn Denholm, Ira Ehrenpreis, Antonio Gracias and Linda Johnson Rice. Tesla’s other board members are Musk, his brother Kimbal Musk and venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson.

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