Elon Musk has taken issue with what he says was a ‘misleading edit’ of an interview he did about Tesla on 60 Minutes this weekend.
Here’s what he really said:
In the interview, Musk appeared brutally honest or even harsh about the situation with Tesla’s board and the SEC settlement, which forced him to step down from his role of chairman of the board.
But Musk said that the show was misleading with the editing:
Based on the edit of the interview that aired, Musk simply responded ‘Yes’ when interviewer Lesley Stahl asked if he personally “handpicked” Robyn Denholm as the new Chair to replace him.
Stahl then followed up about asking Musk if Denholm would have control over him and again based on the edited version of the interview that aired, Musk boldly answered:
“It’s not realistic in the sense that I am the largest shareholder in the company. I can just call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want.”
In reality, Musk’s comments were much more nuanced than how it was portrayed in the 60 Minutes interview.
Electrek obtained the full transcript of the interview and when asked if he “handpicked” Denholm, Musk actually answered more than just “yes”:
“Yes…handpicked her? I asked for a chair, and the rest of the board was very supportive of that.”
As for his comment about being able to get anything done at the board level, it was also much more nuanced:
“I mean that’s not realistic because I am the largest shareholder in the company and a very high percentage of the shareholders support me and the company. So essentially I could just call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want provided I could get support of at least a 1/3 of the other shareholders, which is likely. At the end of the day the shareholders control the company.”
While Musk definitely said during the interview that he doesn’t respect the SEC, that wasn’t a tricky edit, he actually did also say that it might turn out to be a positive thing that he had to step down from the role of chairman.
He had good things to say about his replacement that didn’t make the cut:
“I think… I think this is actually quite, this has turned out to be quite good in that Robyn who I have great respect for – she’s very competent, good hearted, hard working, smart, a smart person. Is going to essentially work at Tesla and solve a bunch of problems.”
Denholm, who is an experienced executive, was only part-time on Tesla’s board, but now she has given a 6-month notice at Telstra, where she was CFO and Head of Strategy, in order to take on the role of chairwoman of Tesla’s board full-time.
Indeed, that edit was misleading. They made it sound like Musk saw Denholm as a puppet he handpicked to satisfy the SEC while he could do whatever he wants because he is the largest shareholder.
It’s true that Musk has a lot of leeway as the largest shareholder and like I wrote yesterday, this is not a Steve Jobs and Apple in the 1990s situation. But the full comments are much more reasonable than what 60 Minutes made them sound like.
I don’t know why he does TV interviews where they can edit whole conversations like that. It’s such an outdated format.
That’s why I much prefer live podcasting. It feels a lot more like a real conversation.
Elon, you are always welcome on the Electrek Podcast. We won’t edit you.