Musk taps Goldman, Silver Lake on Tesla bid plan

By BLOOMBERG

SYDNEY • Elon Musk (picture) continued to drip feed details of his controversial plan to take Tesla Inc private, saying late Monday that he’s getting advice from Goldman Sachs Group Inc and private-equity firm Silver Lake.

In a tweet late Monday California time, the electric-car maker’s CEO said he’s also lined up legal advisors for the possible transaction. A Tesla spokesman said Musk’s tweet refers to his own advisors and attorneys. Tesla board members didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Controversy has swirled around Musk’s plan since the moment he announced it in a tweet a week ago, with some investors and lawyers questioning his claim to have secured funding for the move. Musk’s tweet about taking Tesla private hadn’t been cleared ahead of time with the company’s board, the New York Times reported, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is scrutinising his statements.

Elon Musk @elonmusk replying to Tesla@Tesla: I’m excited to work with Silver Lake and Goldman Sachs as financial advisors, plus Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Munger, Tolles & Olson as legal advisors, on the proposal to take Tesla private.

Earlier on Monday, Musk revealed that Saudi Arabia has long been interested in taking Tesla private, which gave him the confidence last week to tweet that he was considering the blockbuster deal. He also confirmed the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) recently bought an almost 5% stake and is interested in helping take Tesla private, as Bloomberg News reported on Sunday.

The posts prolong Musk’s piecemeal approach to explaining how he’ll pull off a privatisation of his money-losing automaker at a more than US$70 billion (RM287 billion) market capitalisation. Since the 47-year-old dropped that bombshell, he’s used social media to sporadically update investors stuck in an information vacuum.

Adding to potential confusion over who’s doing what for whom, Reuters reported that Silver Lake is offering its assistance to Musk without compensation. Silver Lake hasn’t been hired as a financial advisor in an official capacity and isn’t currently discussing participating in the deal as an investor, Reuters said. A Goldman Sachs representative declined to comment, and Silver Lake representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund first approached Musk in early 2017 about taking Tesla off the market, he said in a blog post on Monday.

The PIF is working to be part of any investor pool that emerges to take Tesla private, Bloomberg News reported on Sunday.

Musk described a meeting late last month in which an MD for the fund expressed regret that such a transaction hadn’t moved forward.

“I left the July 31 meeting with no question that a deal with the Saudi sovereign fund could be closed, and that it was just a matter of getting the process moving,” Musk wrote, adding that this is why he tweeted yesterday that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at US$420 a share.

As Musk fills in the blanks, he’s not convincing everyone. Sydneybased Totus Capital Pte Ltd is still short Tesla shares and has increased its bearish bet since the executive tweeted about taking the company private, said Ben McGarry, a fund manager at the firm.

“The time has finally come for the great Tesla short,” McGarry said in a note last week. “When a CEO under extreme pressure lobs a light-ondetail privatisation proposal, the potential payoff for a short position improves.”

Several investors have sued Musk and Tesla, claiming the company’s share price was manipulated. The SEC is said to be intensifying its scrutiny of the company and its CEO after having started gathering general information about Tesla and Musk’s earlier public pronouncements about manufacturing goals and sales targets.