Tesla shares plummeted Friday, September 7, US time, after two executives announced their departures from the company and a video of Elon Musk smoking weed and drinking whiskey on a popular podcast began to circulate on social media.
Musk smoked marijuana with comedian Joe Rogan at the end of a two-and-half-hour interview on the "The Joe Rogan Experience," which featured a wide-ranging discussion on topics including artificial intelligence, the Musk's technological ambitions and personal hardship.
After discussing the artistic and engineering merits of wristwatches, Rogan brought out a blunt, telling Musk that it was a mix of tobacco and marijuana. "You ever had that?" Rogan asked, noting that Musk probably had not smoked one "because of stockholders."
"I mean it's legal, right?" said Musk, before taking a puff. The show took place in California, where recreational marijuana consumption is legal.
The podcast episode arrived at a tumultuous moment for Tesla and Musk. Last month, Musk ignited controversy by announcing on Twitter that a deal to take Tesla private was all but certain, only to abandon the plan 17 days later. The abrupt U-turn on the surprising proposal still leaves Tesla to contend with federal investigations, shareholder lawsuits and whistleblower complaints sparked by the initial announcement.
Musk has also acknowledged that his intense workload of 120-hour weeks was taking a toll on his physical health, according to an emotional interview with the New York Times last month. Musk's detractors have criticized his impulsiveness and recent behavior. But even those close to him have expressed worry. Musk told the Times, "I've had friends come by who are really concerned."
On the same day that the podcast was published, two executives announced their resignations from the company. Tesla's chief accounting officer, Dave Morton, said he was leaving after considering the level of attention Tesla has received and the "pace within the company."
"I want to be clear that I believe strongly in Tesla, its mission, and its future prospects, and I have no disagreements with Tesla's leadership or its financial reporting," he said. Morton worked for the company for only a month.
Shortly after Morton's announcement, Bloomberg reported that Tesla's Chief People Officer, Gabrielle Toledano, would not be returning to the company after a leave of absence.
At least 48 executives have left the company this year. But Tesla has called the departure rate typical of any large company.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this week, Musk doubled down on an incendiary allegation against a British cave explorer who helped save 12 boys trapped in a flooded cavern in Thailand this summer. Musk previously called the explorer a pedophile, after he criticized Musk's efforts to participate in the cave rescue, calling it a "PR stunt." Musk retaliated on Twitter, labeling explorer Vernon Unsworth a "pedo guy." Musk later apologized. But investors were rattled. Musk's critics have said that his bitter feuds with journalists, employees, rivals and others have interfered with Tesla's mission to transform the auto industry.
According to an email published by BuzzFeed this week, Musk has not put the cave diver incident behind him. Musk repeated his attacks on Unsworth in an email to a reporter, again raising questions about his decision making and state of mind.
Tesla's stock was down by more than 5% in morning trading. – © 2018. Washington Post