Tesla CEO Elon Musk apologized on Wednesday for his behavior in the company’s May earnings call, where he dismissed questions from analysts as “boring,” “boneheaded” and “not cool.” Musk made headlines when he cut off Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi and RBC analyst Joseph Spak, before unexpectedly switching to asking YouTuber Galileo Russell to ask a question instead.
“I’d like to apologize for being impolite on the prior call,” Musk told investors in the second quarter earnings call on Wednesday. “Honestly, I think there’s really no excuse for bad manners and I was violating my own rule in that regard. Certainly, I have some excuse. There are reasons for it in that I’d gotten no sleep and been working sort of 110-hour, 120-hour weeks. But, nonetheless, there’s still no excuse. My apologies for not being polite on the prior call.”
Musk’s sudden interruptions left listeners stunned, as he batted away questions around Tesla Model 3 demand and capital expenditure. Adam Jonas, equity analyst at Morgan Stanley, described it as “arguably the most unusual call I have experienced in 20 years on the sell-side,” noting that many investors seemed to agree. Tesla stock fell 4.7 percent during the May call. After the call, Musk justified his behavior by stating that the two questions were from sell-side analysts trying to justify a negative thesis, the capital expenditure question was already answered in the accompanying letter, and demand questions are “absurd” because of the large order backlog.
In the three months since, Musk’s behavior has drawn more criticism from investors, in particular after he described a Thai cave rescue volunteer as a “pedo guy.” James Anderson, a partner at the company’s fourth-largest investor Baillie Gifford, told The Guardian that he saw the end of carbon as essential, but that he’s “frustrated that the real steps towards this are being overshadowed and undermined by this saga.” Gene Munster, head of research at Loup Ventures, said that without Musk changing his attitude to social media, “it could have a dramatic negative impact on the company.”
Musk told Bloomberg in a July 13 story that he “should probably say nothing [in response to Twitter criticism] more often.” With investors making their voices heard, it seems Musk is taking a step back and listening.