Elon Musk’s Ubiquitous Presence Continues to Capture Attention

Elon Musk’s Ubiquitous Presence Continues to Capture Attention

Covering Elon Musk is more than a full-time job these days. In fact, it takes a newsroom. 

Five years ago or so, writing and reporting about Musk was more or less synonymous with covering his electric vehicle company

Tesla
.

For sure, Musk was never simply a Business Roundtable CEO type or even a rock star visionary founder. He was always much more than those archetypes. 

That’s because Tesla was more than just a car maker. It helped give birth to the EV industry. And Musk has long had other significant endeavors, including SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Neuralink. Plus he’s had a kaleidoscopic mosh pit of a personal life with multiple romantic partners and offspring, a mom who is a model, and a cheery brother in a cowboy hat. 

At the center of all this was Tesla, which upended the $3 trillion global auto industry and exploded into the global zeitgeist. Tesla ended up in bad shape during the 2008 financial crisis and Musk stepped in to become the CEO and righted the ship.

Tesla shares rocketed from under $12 in 2019 to a high of $409.97 on Nov. 4, 2021. If you remember, this is when people began to consider Musk the Renaissance man of our time, a modern-day Thomas Edison. News organizations began to assign reporters to cover Musk and his world full time. 

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Those were the best of times for Musk, and are now very much in the rearview mirror. It’s remarkable how much has changed for Musk in a few short years, a time frame that coincides with a decline in Tesla’s stock—it now trades for $171, down 58% from its high—and his purchase of the social media platform formerly known as Twitter in October 2022. 

Much has been made of the timing of Musk’s X buy and Tesla stock’s decline. It is true that Musk sold Tesla shares to fund his purchase of Twitter, putting downward pressure on Tesla’s stock price. It’s also important not to fall into what logicians call a questionable-cause logical fallacy. It is fair to say that Musk, who still has all of the aforementioned responsibilities, is increasingly all over the place.

In an interview with Don Lemon released this week, Musk said he typically puts in 16-hour days and that he rarely takes off a weekend day.

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Musk has been accused of being overloaded for years. Even he seemed to acknowledge as much during a Q&A session at South by Southwest six years ago, according to a Business Insider report, when talking about spending too much bandwidth on SpaceX at the expense of Tesla in the early 2000s. “I think that was probably the biggest mistake of my career,” he said. “Whenever you think you can have your cake and eat it too, you’re probably wrong.”

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment from Musk.

Up until recently, Musk has somehow been able to juggle everything. Now, his remit and interests have gone beyond the pale.

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I counted some 10 ongoing news articles in which Musk is involved. I say some because there is some overlap and blend between the headlines and because I’m sure there are others I’ve missed. Here they are, in no particular order:

—Lemon, whom Musk hired and then fired, posts his interview with Musk, which—among other topics—delved into his use of ketamine to treat depression amid reports of him using illegal drugs. Musk says he has never failed a drug test.

—Musk defends his use of ketamine: “If there is something I’m taking, I should keep taking it.”

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—A ceremony where Musk and others were to be given an award in the name of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was canceled.

—Musk and Trump recently met and it’s speculated that Musk might give money to Trump and possibly endorse him.

—The former CEO of Twitter sues Musk.

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—The Securities and Exchange Commission accuses Musk of trying to distort its investigation into his takeover of Twitter.

—Musk says Democrats use illegal immigrants to build political power.

—Questions raised about Musk’s philanthropy.

—Musk escalates his battle with OpenAI by announcing that his artificial intelligence start-up xAI will share the code for Grok, a ChatGPT rival.

—After complex and lengthy negotiations, the EU will launch satellites with SpaceX.

It’s one thing to be a polymath, which Musk certainly is, and to be the real-life most interesting man in the world. But it’s quite another to have simply too much on your plate. 

And notice one thing all these articles have in common besides Musk: Not a single one is about Tesla.

Write to Andy Serwer at andy.serwer@barrons.com and subscribe to his At Barron’s podcast.

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