Elon Musk has declared himself the “Technoking” of electric car firm Tesla, in a move that seems custom-designed to flare up old disputes with regulators.
In an 8-K form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, the company declared that as of March 15, Musk will serve as CEO while taking on the bizarre title of Technoking. Zach Kirkhorn, Tesla’s chief financial officer, will take on the title of “Master of Coin” — perhaps a reference to the same position in the Game of Thrones universe. The filing does not go into any more detail about the title changes.
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Why did Elon Musk declare himself Technoking?
In many ways, it’s par for the course. Musk has amassed a Twitter following of nearly 50 million users. The Tesla “Technoking” uses his account to share sci-fi memes, make internet culture jokes, and respond to fan queries. He’s also used it to change job titles before — in October 2018, he deleted his titles and declared himself the “nothing of Tesla” to “see what would happen.”
Musk’s personality has also surfaced in the output of his companies. Space-faring firm SpaceX launched Musk’s red Tesla Roadster into space in February 2018, on the maiden flight of the firm’s Falcon Heavy rocket. The car was laden with references to sci-fi tech favorites like Douglas Adams, David Bowie, and Isaac Asimov.
The change comes as Musk continues to encounter controversy over his use of Twitter. According to a complaint unsealed last Thursday, Tesla shareholder Chase Gharrity is suing Musk over “erratic” tweets that he claim violate an agreement between Musk and the government agency. Among other posts, the agency highlighted a May 2020 tweet in which Musk declared Tesla’s stock price was “too high.” The company lost $13 billion in market value over the tweet.
The agreement stems from a now-infamous tweet in August 2018, where he posted that he was going to take Tesla private at $420 per share and that he had “funding secured.” Musk explained in a follow-up blog post that he said he had the funding secured because he left a meeting with the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund with “no question” that a deal could be closed. In the ensuing fallout, Musk reached a deal with the commission in October 2018 that said “communications relating to the company … including … Twitter” would be overseen by the board.
When else did Musk clash with the SEC?
But that wasn’t the end of Musk’s clashes with the commission. In a post that same month, Musk made reference to the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission,” referring to investors that stand to benefit from a drop in Tesla’s stock price. In a 60 Minutes interview in December 2018, Musk said that “the only tweets that would have to be, say, reviewed, would be if a tweet had a probability of causing a movement in the stock … otherwise it’s hello, first amendment.”
It wasn’t the only change Tesla announced on Monday. In a separate 8-K filing, Tesla announced that the president of Tesla’s automotive division, Jerome Guillen, would now serve as president of Tesla Heavy Trucking.
The move, as outlined in the filing, is tied to Tesla’s plans “to enter the critical heavy trucks market for the first time.” Tesla unveiled the semi-truck in Guillen is set to use his experience “to focus on and lead all aspects of the Tesla Semi program, including the related charging and servicing networks.”
Tesla shared a video of the upcoming truck on Monday:
The Inverse analysis — Musk’s new job title won’t change his role in any meaningful way — and it could be the point he’s trying to communicate.
When Musk last changed his title in October 2018, it was in the same month that he reached an agreement with the commission to step down as Tesla chairman for at least three years, but remains as CEO. He wrote on Twitter that, after changing his title to “nothing,” things “seem fine so far.”
It’s perhaps notable that, when Musk changed his title to “nothing,” he wrote that companies are legally required to have a president, treasurer, and secretary. Musk may have found a way to declare himself “Technoking,” but it seems for now he’s likely to stay as CEO.
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