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Elon Musk: Drugs, stress and Tesla's way forward

'The most difficult and painful year of my career'

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had a wild ride of late, under pressure to increase production of the Model 3, tangling with Wall Street analysts, lashing out on Twitter, dealing with lawsuits and most recently, inviting the scrutiny of the SEC and his own board members with his Tweet saying he was considering taking the company private and adding the words, "Funding secured."

Now, the combative Musk granted a remarkable interview to The New York Times in which he reportedly choked up several times, acknowledged he was working as many as 120 hours a week, said he's using Ambien to help him sleep and called the past year "the most difficult and painful year of my career."

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly investigating whether Musk's Aug. 7 "Funding secured" tweet violated securities law. His tweet reportedly has also ruffled feathers among Tesla board members, who were unaware of his plans to explore taking the electric carmaker private and are searching to find a chief operating officer or other No. 2 executive to help ease the burden. On Thursday, Reuters reported that a former employee fired from Tesla's Gigafactory filed a new whistleblower lawsuit alleging that the company spied on employees and did not disclose to investors a theft of $37 million in copper and other raw materials. It adds to a separate whistleblower complaint filed by former employee Martin Tripp, who said he grew alarmed after seeing damaged batteries installed in Model 3s.

Musk also took a swipe at short-sellers who bet against Tesla's stock value and whom he says are "desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla's destruction."

Beyond the use of Ambien, board members are also reportedly concerned over his occasional recreational drug use.

Musk's comments suggest the events are taking an enormous physical and psychological toll. He told the Times he hadn't taken off more than a week from work since 2001, when he was bedridden with malaria. He spent his entire 47th birthday in June at work. He flew directly from the Gigafactory to his brother Kimbal's wedding in Catalonia, where was to be best man, arriving two hours before the ceremony, and returned immediately to Tesla headquarters afterward.

"There were times when I didn't leave he factory for three or four days – days when I didn't go outside," he said. "This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends."

He also told the Times that the worst is over "from a Tesla operational standpoint" but added, "from a personal pain standpoint, the worst is yet to come."

Musk said he did not regret sending the "Funding secured" tweet and had no plans to relinquish his dual roles as chairman and CEO. But he cryptically added, "if you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now."

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