Tesla is seeking a wide investor pool for its take-private plan

Musk prefers a group of investors who could each contribute part of the funds as he wants to avoid having 1 or 2 large new stakeholders


LONDON • Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk and advisors are seeking a wide pool of investors to back a potential take-private of the automaker to avoid concentrating ownership among a few new large holders, according to people familiar with the matter.

Tesla is holding early discussions with banks about the feasibility and structure of a possible deal, the people said, asking not to be identified as the details aren’t public. They are canvassing investors including large asset managers, the people said.

Billionaire founder Musk would prefer to amass a group of investors who could each contribute part of the funds because he wants to avoid having one or two large new stakeholders in the company, the people said.

Deliberations are at an early stage and the company hasn’t yet formally hired a bank to work on the process or made a final decision on how to proceed, they said.

A representative for Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Tesla’s shares briefly turned negative on the news and traded up 0.8% at 4:05pm in New York last Friday.

Musk Control
Since Musk first tweeted last Tuesday that he was considering taking Tesla private at US$420 (RM1,718) a share and that he had “funding secured”, he’s offered no evidence to back up the statement.

People close to at least 16 financial institutions and technology firms, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, have said they weren’t aware of financing having been locked in before Musk’s tweet.

The amount of funding needed would depend on how many current investors want to remain part of the US$60.9 billion company if it goes private.

Musk has said he still expects to own about 20% of Tesla after any transaction, and that he hopes all shareholders will remain owners of a private company.

“When you have these grand-vision companies, the founders — these leaders — don’t want to have some investors have control,” Gene Munster, a managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures said in a Bloomberg Television interview, talking about the idea that Musk wouldn’t want to bring in any large new shareholders.

“So it makes a tonne of sense. I would consider this a given that he would not give up any sort of control. He’s still going to be the largest shareholder in the company,” Munster said.

Bank Fees
Several banks are likely to be pitching possible deal structures or financing scenarios for either Tesla or the company’s board to consider, chasing the millions of dollars in advisory fees that could be offered to whomever wins the mandates.

According to estimates from Jeffrey Nassof, a director at Freeman Consulting Services, banks advising Tesla could make US$90 million to US$120 million in fees, while advisors to Musk could take home US$30 million to US$50 million. If a deal involves debt financing, those providing funding could expect fees of about US$500 million.

Six members of Tesla’s board said in a statement last Wednesday that Musk started a discussion about a potential deal last week, and that they’ve met several times since then to evaluate the options.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been gathering information about Tesla’s public pronouncements on manufacturing goals and sales targets, is intensifying its scrutiny of the company’s public statements in the wake of Musk’s tweet, people familiar with the matter have said.