Tesla forms panel to gauge taking company private

Posted August 15, 2018

Musk said that the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund "has approached me multiple times" starting in early 2017 about taking Tesla private and had already taken a stake of almost five percent though share purchases.

Musk said that full details regarding the source of funding would be provided before anyone would be asked to decide on going private but that it was "premature" to share such information on Monday.

Musk said Monday he had held talks with a Saudi sovereign fund on a buyout that would take Tesla off the Nasdaq exchange - an extraordinary move for what is now the United States' most valuable automaker.

Since that unorthodox announcement on August 7, which has triggered investor lawsuits and an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk and Tesla have scrambled to bring order to the process of negotiating a deal. Tesla is the most shorted stock in the U.S. Musk has not hidden his contempt of short sellers in the past.

According to Musk, the Saudi sovereign fund expressed its interest in order to diversify from oil and "has more than enough capital needed to execute on such a transaction".

He said he had most recently met with the Saudis on 31 July and left that meeting "with no question that a deal with the. fund could be closed, and that it was just a matter of getting the process moving".

Musk on Monday estimated two-thirds of existing Tesla shareholders would roll over their holdings into a private company, but said that he was still talking with major shareholders and advisers before settling on a structure for the deal.

Apart from the Saudi sovereign fund, Musk said he is having talks with other potential investors about his privatization plan. On Monday Tesla was hit with a third lawsuit, which alleged that Musk's tweet was meant to manipulate the price of the company's stock.

The board said the committee's members are Brad Buss, Robyn Denholm and Linda Johnson Rice, and that it has hired Latham & Watkins LLP as the committee's legal counsel.

Buss served as chief financial officer of solar panel installer SolarCity for two years before retiring in 2016.

California-based Tesla has become one of the most valuable automakers on expectations it will disrupt the industry, although it produced only slightly more than 100,000 vehicles previous year.

Musk has yet to persuade Wall Street analysts and investors that he can find the billions needed to complete the deal, or even such a deal is a good idea for a loss-making company.

Denholm, the first woman on Tesla's board, is chief operations officer of telecom firm Telstra and the former chief financial officer of network gear maker Juniper Networks (JNPR.N).

Tesla's other board members include Musk; his brother Kimbal Musk; Twenty-First Century Fox's CEO James Murdoch; Antonio Gracias, founder of Valor Equity Partners; and Ira Ehrenpreis, founder of venture capital firm DBL Partners.

While Musk used Monday's blog post as a way to show the tweets were part of an effort to be completely transparent with shareholders about wanting Tesla to be a private company, sources told the paper it was impulsive and was driven by feelings of anger for the vehicle maker's critics.