Rockets-to-electric cars billionaire Elon Musk continued to mesmerise during September in his role as chief designer and overall boss of SpaceX. This was despite suffering much criticism and bad press over his ill-judged Twitter declarations – actions he would however later regret as it brought the US financial authorities down on him.
On 17 September, in his usual chilled-out slightly jerky style, Elon Musk excellently presented his plan for putting passengers around the Moon, noting design changes to the BFR (Big Falcon Rocket)/BFS (Big Falcon Spaceship) combination as he did so. However, as Musk explained that he had moved to a “riskier” combined fin/leg design because he wanted the BFS to be more the aesthetically pleasing and more like the “Tintin” lunar rocket from the children’s cartoon books, some began to wonder what Elon had been smoking.
Well it was weed (Marijuana) apparently. Elon Musk had earlier in the month appeared on the online broadcast The Joe Rogan Experience when he openly smoked a spliff. At the sight of this, investors in the embattled Tesla electric car outfit (where Musk is CEO), took fright and Tesla’s share price dropped. That stock had already previously crash dived in August after Musk’s bizarre Twitter announcement and then subsequent retraction that he was planning to take the Tesla firm private – moves that have gained the interest of the US financial authorities. These included the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which then went on to start an investigation, and then, on 18 September the US Department of Justice announced that it was launching a fraud probe further driving down Telsa’s share price. Independent to this, short-seller investor, Citron Research is suing Elon Musk over his initial tweet which claimed that he had “secured funding” to take Telsa private.
Update on 30 September 2018: In a civil action by the SEC, Elon Musk was formally accused of fraud over his misleading tweet. However, the action was quickly settled with a US$20 million fine on both Musk and on the firm, and an agreement that Musk would stand down as Chairman of Tesla, albeit that he will remain its CEO.
However, there was even more bad news for Elon Musk in September. After Vernon Unsworth, one of the cave diving rescue party which successfully rescued some trapped Thai boys, publicly, and rather rudely, expressed his scepticism over Musk’s motivation in offering a submersible technical solution for the rescue earlier in the summer, Musk then retaliated by accusing Unsworth of being a “pedo guy” (paedophile man) in his Twitter comments. After Unsworth threatened to sue, Musk later apologised for the remark noting that the accusation was made in a fit of rage. All well and good. However, Musk then went on imply that Unsworth’s failure to sue him was because he really was guilty. Musk later directly accused Unsworth, this time in an email to Buzzfeed news, of being a child rapist and sex trafficker.
The aggrieved Unsworth decided enough was enough and is now formally suing Musk in a New York court for the defamation of his name and character. He plans to take similar legal action in London. And the odds are, unless Musk can substantiate his claims, Unsworth is likely to win.