By Daniel J. McLaughlin
It has been rather difficult - and strange - year for Elon Musk. In 2018, he strangely accused a British cave diver who helped rescue a Thai football team and their coach of being a "paedo". He admitted to working a gruelling 120-hour work, spending just six hours sleeping. He has experienced business difficulties including problems with electric car production goals and his dubious claim that he had "funding secured" to take his company private.
And now, he has been recorded smoking marijuana on a popular webcast. It has been a testing time for the Tesla CEO, and it has been a testing time for his company.
"Once the subject of the most fawning media coverage this sides of the Korean Central News Agency's reporting of Kim Jong Un," the Washington Post writes, "the founder and chief executive of Tesla finds himself approaching laughingstock status." And the damage on his image has largely been self-inflicted.
Since January 1, Tesla's stock has plunged by around 19 per cent. As he was getting high on weed and whiskey during a recording of Joe Rogan’s podcast, his company's stock was getting lower. It plunged by nine per cent after the bizarre incident. Last month, the Tesla CEO tweeted: "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured." Following that announcement, it appears that he didn't have the funding secured after all - and since then, the shares have lost almost a third of their value, and falling to their lowest level since April.
According to the New York Times, Tesla has lost a distinction the company first achieved last year - the American automaker with the highest market value. It has been ceded back to General Motors.
The company has also been plighted by departures from two of its top executives. Dave Morton, its chief accounting officer, suddenly resigned last week, after only a month in the job. He cited concerns about "the level of public attention placed on the company" in his filing. Tesla's HR boss Gabrielle Toledano also left her role on Friday, following a leave of absence last month.
CNN argues that Musk is hurting Tesla with his bizarre behaviour, and investors are "looking at an easy punchline for comedians, a man who's became a walking Page Six item". Instead of focusing on Tesla's growing sales and ambitious plans, as well as predictions that the company will report a profit in the fourth quarter and a full year of profitability in 2019, they are watching Musk smoke a blunt with Joe Rogan. They suggest hiring a chief operating officer to lighten the load, as Gwynne Shotwell does at his other company, SpaceX.
Elon Musk is the face of Tesla, but the CEO is becoming problematic with his strange behaviour. The face of the company is an unpredictable and erratic man, and if it continues, the stock could plunge further as he scares investors off.