Elon Musk’s unpredictable Twitter habits have Tesla investors worried

Musk’s intense focus on his social media company purchase has devolved into the culture wars. Tesla is in decline.

Elon Musk has built his reputation on having a Midas touch with the companies he runs — something many investors and experts thought he would bring to Twitter. (Emily Wright, The Washington Post illustration).


Elon Musk was speechless.

The Twitter CEO was on a live audio chat Tuesday night with software engineers when one user started quizzing him about the internal workings of the company’s systems. Musk, who is on a live audio chat with software engineers Tuesday night. earlier said he would keep control of Twitter’s software systems even though he plans to relinquish the CEO role, said the company’s code needed a complete rewrite. One of the participants asked what he meant — pushing for him to explain it from top to bottom.

“Amazing, wow,” Musk said after hesitations and pauses. “You’re a jackass. … What a moron.”

The incident highlights the new reality Musk, who also runs Tesla & SpaceX, faces: a crisis in his confidence once-unquestioned brilliance.

This crisis was exacerbated by the rapid plunge in Tesla stock prices to $123 per share Friday, a drop of nearly 20%. largely due to concerns about Musk. This week, 58 percent of 17,000,000 Twitter accounts responded to a poll by Musk. said he should step downAs Twitter CEO, I helped create, then reverse, controversial policies that were last weekend.

“Historically he’s been a pendulum between genius and reckless,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures. “He’s on reckless right now. He’s way over recklessness.”

He added, “It leaves people to view him … as slightly less of a genius.”

The key moments that define Musk’s leadership of Twitter

Musk has built his name on having a Midas touch with the companies he runs — something many investors and experts thought he would bring to Twitter when he purchased it for $44 billion in OctoberHe paid nearly twice the amount that it was worth according to some analyst estimates. He is well-known. sleeping on the factory floorTesla demands that his workers work long hours and be able to respond quickly. He is considered an engineering genius, promoting the promise of cars that can drive on their own. rockets that can take humans to Mars.

But this image is deteriorating. Some Twitter employees were able to work with Musk. doubtful his management styleHe will be able to turn around the company. Tesla’s largest investor, however, has begun to view him as a liability. Musk’s distraction has prompted questions about leadership of SpaceXIt is also dependent on his active involvement, but it is less dependent on him. Neuralink and Boring Co. were two of the companies he started. continue to lag on promises.

Musk’s net worth — largely fueled by his stake in Tesla, which has fallen by more than half this year — has plunged this year from roughly $270 billion to belowAccording to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, $140 billion was earned Friday. That fall has relieved him of the title of the world’s richest man and called into question his ability to keep up with his billions of dollars in loans.

Musk is frequently described as a man obsessed in Twitter in all the wrong directions. According to interviews with a few former Twitter employees and people who were close to him, Musk is failing to protect both his new and previous investments.

Musk this week said Twitter is in a financial hole and facing a cash crunch — even as it slashed more than half of the workforce and closed offices.

“We have an emergency fire drill on our hands,” Musk said on Twitter Spaces. “Aspirationally, I’m not naturally capricious.”

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Musk has been Musk for all his life unpredictable and freewheeling with his public persona, but with Twitter, his actions have directly affected the business, turning off some of the company’s users and pushing away advertisers, said Jo-Ellen Pozner, a management professor at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business.

“It really feels destabilizing for the whole Twitter community,” she said, adding that the reputation of a CEO does affect businesses and their stock prices — and could even prompt consumers to choose another vehicle.

Musk and Twitter — which has disbanded most of its public relations team — did not respond to requests for comment.

A 10th-floor conference space was available for us.

Musk, who is South African, immigrated to North America in his teens and became a tech genius when he founded PayPal. He invested much of the $165 million he earned from the sale PayPal into Tesla and SpaceX. SpaceX became the most successful private spaceflight business in history, pioneering reusable rockets, and launching astronauts into the International Space Station.

Tesla, meanwhile, brought electric vehicles to the mainstreamWith sleek, fast, and competitively priced sedans or SUVs that shatter the stereotype of eco-conscious cars. Even though he missed key deadlines for new vehicle models sales, his closest friends have kept faith. rolling out self-driving technology.

Musk has been almost exclusively focused on Twitter since he purchased it. He plans to reinvent the company as an engineering-driven organization. He immediately ousted Twitter’s previous executives and embarked on a campaign of harsh layoffsThat cut the company in half. Many of Musk’s supporters, who had followed his rise at Tesla, gave him the benefit of the doubt that he had a plan to transform Twitter.

He immediately scared advertisers by this. engaging in a baseless accusation and dialed back Twitter’s content moderation, prompting calls from civil rights groupsAdvertisers are asked to suspend their marketing on this site. And he had to pull back his first major product launch — Twitter Blue Verified — after a dayA swarm of impersonators created havoc.

A fake tweet sparked panic at Eli Lilly and may have cost Twitter millions

Musk appears to be struggling to grasp Twitter’s business, the people close to him say, and he demands a stance from his employees that stifles discussion of problems. “He doesn’t see from the zoom-out view at all,” one of the people close to Musk and his team said, describing him as “uncovering and solving and programming all night.”

He was taken to a 10th-floor conference room. with a staging room for visitors — where they often remain for more than an hour before being called in. They are instructed to not speak until Musk has spoken. And when they do finally meet with him, he’s sometimes watching YouTube videos.

Many staffers have quickly learned they can’t rely on the erratic and unpredictable Musk, even as he makes assurances about the various facets of the company they have raised as concerns.

The driving team behind Project Eraser — which carries out functions such as deleting the user data of those who ask, part of compliance with federal requirements — has been gutted. Musk has brought in a new roster of leadersMany loyalists.

Musk was confronted by one executive who raised concerns about the company’s future. Federal Trade Commission’s consent decreeMusk assured the person that there was nothing to be concerned. He stated that Tesla was an expert in privacy matters and pointed out his deep understanding and awareness of the restrictions Twitter was facing.

Minutes after the meeting was over, a Musk subordinate emailed to ask: Would the executive be willing send me a copy the consent decree that they had just discussed?

Instead of focusing only on making the site a success, we should be focusing our efforts on making it a success. competitor to YouTube with videoHe was busy releasing new features that would generate revenue and instead got drawn into culture wars, people claimed.

That was the end of it. form of the Twitter Files, an examination by some journalists of many of the company’s actions before Musk’s arrival, such as the blocking of a New York Post story that dug into the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop and the ban on former president Donald Trump.

Musk invited Bari Weiss, a former New York Times columnist to read through documents inside the company.

“Please give Bari full access to everything at Twitter,” Musk wrote to a subordinate in a Signal message viewed by The Washington Post. “No limits at all.”

Journalists who won’t delete tweets remain locked out of Twitter

That was concerning to many inside Twitter — particularly those familiar with the 2011 FTC settlement after hackshigh-profile accounts, including one of former President Barack Obama. The staff responsible for her onboarding refused to grant Weiss full access Musk requested, claiming that it would violate the settlement.

One former employee described that step as “super unprecedented” and “highly inappropriate,” saying Twitter would never have granted that level of access to an outside party who might suddenly be able to read direct messages, for example.

However, senior staff did not take the criticism as seriously.

Days later, Musk announced deputy general counsel Jim Baker had been “exited” from the company, as the CEO cited what he called his “possible role in suppression of information important to the public dialogue.” Former employees said it would have been normal for an attorney to review documents for release.

That same day, Alan Rosa, Twitter’s chief information security officer in charge of access matters, was fired from the company as well. Employees that week found Weiss’s name searchable in Slack, the company’s internal messaging service. Ella Irwin (new Twitter Trust and Safety chief) was her chaperone.

Irwin’s name appeared in a watermark on the Twitter Files. When Twitter suspended more than half a dozen journalists last week over alleged violations of its rules on doxing — the sharing of private information — the suspensions were labeled in internal systems “direction of Ella.”

Musk also used internal systems to dig up an old message from his previous Trust and Safety head and took aim at Twitter executives, unleashing a swarm of criticism on employees — sometimes while they were still working for Twitter.

“These guys did amazing damage,” one former employee said of Musk’s circle at Twitter, which included employees of his other companies and friends who lacked expertise on Twitter. “They are basically bullying their way to getting ‘super god’ access to these things. All they’re doing is they’re witch hunting for Elon, so they can find people talking [about him] so they can fire them.”

Musk is running the newly private company largely on his instincts — mirroring the workflows of his other major technology company: Tesla. The electric car company, the world’s most valuable automaker, has eschewed market research in its dominance of the electric vehicle space, seeding the automotive industry with a raw and authentic expressions of Musk’s id. Tesla’s stainless steel Cybertruck pickupAutomotive analysts were stunned by the striking sci-fi look of the Angular Sci-Fi. This is a key example.

Tesla employees often find out about product changes and deadlines through tweets. But they have also grown used to the CEO’s shoot-from-the-hip attitude, his reliance on his gut instincts rather than the research and development arms typical of multibillion-dollar corporations.

But Tesla’s stock price has plummeted — which Musk frequently attributes to economic trends.

“As bank savings account interest rates, which are guaranteed, start to approach stock market returns, which are *not* guaranteed, people will increasingly move their money out of stocks into cash, thus causing stocks to drop,” he saidIn a tweet Tuesday

But analysts have pointed to problems more specific to Tesla and concern with Musk’s time at Twitter, suggesting in essence that the sheen has worn off a company whose value was not rooted in its fundamentals.

“I felt for a while he was given a pass,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at the website iSeeCars. “‘Oh, it’s Elon. He’s Midas: If he’s touching it, it’s going to be successful.’ Now a certain number of people have stopped giving him a pass on things that probably should have been looked at a little more critically or acknowledged as potential downside.”

Musk began to make changes to Twitter in order to address his personal issues and concerns, which led to a crisis in his leadership confidence.

He reneged last week on a previous promise to keep a Twitter account. published the location of his private jet, which he held up to illustrate his free speech principles. After abruptly suspending @ElonJet he suspended journalistsThe incident was discussed on Twitter by the author, drawing ire across both political spectrums.

He launched a poll that on Friday directed Musk to allow them to return to the site.

“The people have spoken,” he tweeted.

Elon Musk’s private jet is tracked with public data. Is it doxing?

Musk flew around the globe to Qatar to attend the World Cup final. He was spotted with Jared Kusher, a former Trump advisor, and Qatari leaders.

Twitter announced a new policy on the platform that prohibited outside promotion of its platform’s social media sites, including Instagram, Facebook, and Trump-backed Truth Social. Users would be prohibited from promoting links to such sites and other sites like Mastodon. Tribel. Post. Twitter said cross-posting of content would be allowed, but it would no longer permit “free promotion.”

Even loyalists were concerned by the rapid nature of the criticism. Musk apologized.

“Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes,” he tweeted. “My apologies. Won’t happen again.”

Musk launched a new survey. “Should I step down as head of Twitter?” he wrote in a tweet. “I will abide by the results of this poll.”

Musk had already decided to resign on Monday morning. He went silent on the platform for much of the day — one of his longer stretches as a prolific tweeter to his more than 120 million followers. He replied to a few tweets later in day, questioning the results.

On Tuesday, he said he would resign — with caveats.

“I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job!” he wrote in a tweet. “After that, I will just run the software & servers teams.”

This report was co-authored by Cat Zakrzewski and Gerrit DeVynck.

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