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Tesla said to seek number 2 exec as Musk’s behavior angers board

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Elon denies it

Elon Musk Presents SpaceX Plans To Colonise Mars Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images

Tesla is said to be looking for a COO or other number 2 executive to work directly under Elon Musk following concerns over the CEO’s recent erratic behavior, according to a report in The New York Times. Musk told the Times in an interview that Tesla approached Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg about the job two years ago, but says “there is no active search right now” as far as he’s aware.

The Times’ sources say otherwise. Some board members are reportedly “angered” over Musk’s recent chaotic exploits on Twitter in particular, from the seemingly spontaneous announcement of a plan to take Tesla private to the ugly public spats with analysts and cave divers. The board is also said to be concerned with Musk’s spiraling workload and use of Ambien, and is seeking to “help take some of the pressure off” him with the new hire.

Musk tells the Times that he’s been working up to 120-hour weeks, sometimes not leaving a factory for three or four days at a time. He identifies short-selling investors as the source of much of his stress, accusing them of “desperately pushing a narrative that will possibly result in Tesla’s destruction.” He says he takes Ambien to help him sleep — “It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien” — but some board members are worried that this is helping fuel late-night Twitter sessions.

Musk says he has no plans to stop using Twitter, nor does he regret his most contentious tweet of the month. That’s this one, which was sent in the morning as he made his way to the airport and wasn’t reviewed by anyone:

As the Times notes, Nasdaq paused trading an hour and 20 minutes after the tweet with Tesla’s shares up 7 percent, and the stock finished the day with a gain of 11 percent. Funding, however, was not quite as secure as Musk made out; he says he was referring to an investment by the Saudi Arabian government, but reportedly there was no hard commitment to provide the money. Musk’s other major company, SpaceX, was also apparently considered as a way to fund the privatization.

The SEC started questioning Tesla the day after the market-shaking tweet, and has reportedly served the board and Musk with subpoenas as the investigation gathers pace. But Musk says he didn’t get any negative feedback from the board. “I don’t recall getting any communications from the board at all,” he says. “I definitely did not get calls from irate directors.”

“If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know,” Musk concludes in the interview. “They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”