Elon Musk explains why he wants 25% voting share at Tesla: “I just want to be an effective steward of very powerful technology”

Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, Elon Musk caught a lot of flak among TSLA investors for stating that he was uncomfortable growing Tesla into an AI and robotics leader if he does not have ~25% voting control. Musk’s post on X was generally taken in a negative light, with critics stating that the CEO was essentially blackmailing Tesla and its shareholders unless he gets more money. 

It was then no surprise that during the Q4 and FY 2023 earnings call, Tesla executives were asked about Musk’s comments. Responding to the question, Musk noted that he sees a legitimate path for Tesla to become an artificial intelligence and robotics juggernaut with “truly immense capability and power.” Musk clarified that he does not wish to have full control of Tesla, but he also does not want to have so little influence that he could be easily voted out — especially if activist shareholders could be involved. 

“You know, we’ve had a lot of challenges with Institutional Shareholder Services, ISS — I call them ISIS — and Glass Lewis, you know, which there’s a lot of activists that basically infiltrate those organizations and have strange ideas about what should be done. So, you know, I want to have enough to be influential. Like, if we could do a dual-class stock, that would be ideal,” Musk said

Musk also highlighted that he is not after the economics of such a deal. Instead, he simply wants to be a good steward of technology that could effectively change the world. He added that a 25control of Tesla would be large enough for his vote to be substantial but not so large that he could not be outvoted if necessary. 

“I’m not looking for additional economics. I just want to be an effective steward of very powerful technology. And the reason I just sort of roughly picked approximately 25% was that that — that’s not so much that I can control the company even if I go bonkers. And if I’m, like, mad, they can throw me out. But it’s enough that I have a strong influence. That’s what I’m aiming for — a strong influence but not control,” Musk said

While Musk’s sentiments are reasonable, it should be noted that a huge reason behind his smaller stake in Tesla today is his purchase of social media platform Twitter, which has since been rebranded to X. To complete his Twitter acquisition, Musk sold about $22.9 billion worth of TSLA shares in 2022, significantly cutting his stake in the electric vehicle maker. 

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Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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