Shares of Tesla Inc fell 3.5 percent on Monday after Musk directed abuse on Twitter at one of the British cave divers involved in the rescue of 12 Thai children and their coach last week.
A number of analysts and investors, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that Musk's comments are adding to their concerns that his public statements are distracting him from Tesla's main business of producing electric cars. The share drop on Monday knocked almost $2 billion off the company's market value.
James Anderson, a partner at Tesla's fourth-largest shareholder, asset manager Baillie Gifford, called the weekend's events "a regrettable instance" and said he had reiterated to the company the need for "peace and execution" of its core business.
Musk made his unsubstantiated claim, the latest in a string of increasingly erratic statements, on Twitter on Sunday. He was directing his ire toward British-born cave expert Vernon Unsworth, who has spent years exploring the cave in Thailand where a soccer team of 12 boys and their coach were trapped after the cave flooded. What triggered the accusation? In an interview with CNN, Unsworth had criticized Musk's bid to rescue the boys with a small submarine Musk had his team assemble from SpaceX parts.
Musk even doubled down on his "pedo" claim when challenged on Twitter, saying "bet ya a signed dollar it's true." He deleted the tweets shortly afterward, but they live on via the long tail of the Internet.
Unsworth had criticized Musk's submarine as a "PR stunt" and said, "He can stick his submarine where it hurts. It just had absolutely no chance of working."
Unsworth said rescue officials quickly asked Musk to leave the cave site during the rescue mission, a claim Musk also refuted, claiming that, "Thai navy seals escorted us in — total opposite of wanting us to leave."
Cave rescuer on Musk: "It was a PR stunt. It had no chance of working." pic.twitter.com/uPgRMQLkRx— Quoth the Raven (@QTRResearch) July 13, 2018
Last week, Musk also took to Twitter to pledge to help Flint, Mich., residents affected by the city's water crisis, replying to a user that he would commit to "fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding." Except of course the
EPA sets drinking-water contamination levels, not the Food and Drug Administration. But whatever. Musk has also been busy trying to undermine reports that he was
one of the top 50 donors to a political action committee that aims to retain Republican control of the U.S. House after federal filings showed he donated $38,900.
Unsworth reportedly is mulling legal action against Musk, suggesting that investors may be growing restless with his shenanigans. Reuters could not reach Unsworth for comment, but Unsworth's wife told Reuters on Monday that her husband was returning to Britain on July 19, where he will speak to lawyers.
Last week, Narongsak Osottanakorn, the leader of the rescue operation in Thailand, rejected Musk's mini-submarine as not suitable for the task. Musk responded on Twitter on July 10, calling Osottanakorn "not the subject matter expert."
For all of his self-created Twitter fires, it's easy to forget that Musk runs a company called Tesla that makes electric vehicles and is struggling to increase production of the Model 3, its attempt at a mass-market electric sedan that is seen as critical to the company's ability to turn a profit.
Reports that I am a top donor to GOP are categorically false. I am not a top donor to any political party.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 15, 2018
Information from Reuters was used in this report.