Antelope Valley Press

Musk defends SolarCity, blasts lawyer

- By PAUL WISEMAN and TOM KRISHER AP Business Writers

WILMINGTON, Del. — Tesla founder Elon Musk took to a witness stand Monday to defend his company’s 2016 acquisitio­n of a troubled company called SolarCity against a lawsuit that claims he’s to blame for a deal that was rife with conflicts of interest and never delivered the profits he’d promised.

And to the surprise of no one, the famously colorful billionair­e did so in the most personally combative terms.

“I think you are a bad human being,” Musk told Randall Baron, a lawyer for shareholde­rs who was pressing Musk to acknowledg­e his mistakes in helping engineer the acquisitio­n of SolarCity, a manufactur­er of solar panels.

“I have great respect for the court,” Musk later added, “but not for you, sir.’’

The long-running shareholde­r lawsuit asserts that Musk, who was SolarCity’s largest stakeholde­r and its chairman, and other Tesla directors breached their fiduciary duties in bowing to Musk’s wishes and agreeing to buy the company. In what the plaintiffs call a clear conflict of interest, SolarCity had been founded by Musk and two of his cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive.

In the Delaware Court of Chancery on Monday, Baron sought to establish that Musk has sought to run Tesla without interferen­ce and therefore bears responsibi­lity for any failures. The lawyer showed a video clip in which Musk said he liked running his own companies because he doesn’t want anyone to make him do what he doesn’t want to do.

As an example of what he characteri­zed as Musk’s imperious management style, Baron mentioned that the CEO once declared himself “Technoking of Tesla’’ and gave his chief financial officer the title “master of coin’’ — a reference to HBO’s “Game of Thrones” — in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The hostility between the billionair­e CEO and the plaintiffs’ lawyer dates to at least 2019 and a deposition in which Musk insulted Baron and questioned his profession­alism. On Monday, Baron played clips from that deposition to try to portray Musk’s stance toward what he might regard as criticism.

Pushing back, Musk insisted that “I don’t want to be the boss of anything.”

“I prefer to spend my time on design and engineerin­g,’’ he said.

Musk, who is well-known for rejecting skepticism of himself or his company, insisted that he welcomes criticism:

“If I’m mistaken,” he said on the witness stand, “I view critical feedback as a gift.’’

Musk said his off-beat titles and other quips simply reflect his sense of humor.

“I think I’m funny,’’ he offered.

What’s more, he said, the resulting media attention often plays to Tesla’s benefit.

“If we’re entertaini­ng, people will write stories about us,” and the company can save on advertisin­g.”

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 ?? ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES ?? In the runup to Tesla Inc.’s 2016 acquisitio­n of SolarCity, Elon Musk called the combinatio­n a “no brainer,” a one-stop shop for electric cars and the solar panels to recharge them. The Tesla CEO defended the $2.5 billion deal Monday under oath in a shareholde­r lawsuit alleging conflicts of interest.
ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES In the runup to Tesla Inc.’s 2016 acquisitio­n of SolarCity, Elon Musk called the combinatio­n a “no brainer,” a one-stop shop for electric cars and the solar panels to recharge them. The Tesla CEO defended the $2.5 billion deal Monday under oath in a shareholde­r lawsuit alleging conflicts of interest.

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