Musk announced via Twitter earlier this month while driving to the airport that he was thinking of taking the company private, adding the words "funding secured" that would later become key to investors, Tesla's own board members and regulators. We now know that funding most definitely never was secured, thanks in part to a remarkably candid interview he gave The New York Times.
The WSJ says officials in Saudi Arabia were divided on increasing their 5 percent investment in Tesla with the mercurial Musk steering the ship, and at a time when they were weighing putting money behind rival EV maker Lucid. Musk himself saw a potential PR issue with an electric car company being partly owned by a petrostate. So the special committee Tesla established to oversee the going-private bid went looking elsewhere for cash to fulfill Musk's promise to go private at $420 a share, a huge premium over the company's existing share price.
Unnamed sources familiar with the deal told the Journal that advisers from Goldman Sachs cobbled together a consortium that included VW and private equity firm Silver Lake and that was prepared to offer as much as $30 billion to take the company private. But Musk, who is famously critical and suspicious of other automakers, reportedly balked at relinquishing any control over Tesla and of any companies that wanted in on what he calls the "Tesla halo," though both Toyota and Daimler at one time held investments in the company. He also became leery of his own plan because it would have displaced many of the smaller investors who were so critical to the formation of that very same halo and replaced them with more sophisticated, institutional investors who would keep an even shorter, tighter leash on the company.
At a board meeting convened the next day, Musk told board members he was withdrawing his own proposal. He published a blog post announcing the same thing to the public Friday night.
The SEC is reportedly investigating whether Musk broke any securities laws after his Aug. 7 tweet sent Tesla's stocks skyrocketing.