Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly demanded to become Apple’s CEO in a 2016 phone call with current Apple CEO Tim Cook, according to an upcoming book about Tesla. The story, shared by the Los Angeles Times, comes from Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century by The Wall Street Journal reporter Tim Higgins.
As the book tells it, Cook suggested to Musk that Apple acquire Tesla, and Musk said he wanted to be CEO. Cook reportedly agreed, but Musk clarified that he wanted to be the CEO of Apple. “According to a former aide who heard (Musk’s) retelling of the exchange,” Cook said “Fuck you” before hanging up the phone.
But Musk and Apple have both suggested that the conversation couldn’t have happened because Musk and Cook have never spoken.
Musk, in a tweet on Friday, flat out said that “Cook & I have never spoken or written to each other ever.” He also said that he attempted to meet with Cook about Apple acquiring Tesla, a meeting that Cook refused. (Musk previously discussed this attempted meeting in December.)
Cook & I have never spoken or written to each other ever.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 30, 2021
There was a point where I requested to meet with Cook to talk about Apple buying Tesla. There were no conditions of acquisition proposed whatsoever.
He refused to meet. Tesla was worth about 6% of today’s value.
When asked for comment about the reported conversation, Apple pointed to remarks Cook made during an interview with The New York Times’ Kara Swisher where he denied having ever spoken to Elon. “You know, I’ve never spoken to Elon, although I have great admiration and respect for the company he’s built,” Cook said.
Musk also claims that much of the book is false. “Higgins managed to make his book both false *and* boring,” Musk said in a tweet on Friday:
Higgins managed to make his book both false *and* boring— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 30, 2021
And Musk apparently tried to dash cold water on the book while it was being written, telling Higgins that much of the book was “nonsense,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Musk apparently did not participate in the creation of “Power Play.” In an author’s note at the end, Higgins writes that Musk “was given numerous opportunities to comment on the stories, facts, and characterizations presented in these pages. Without pointing to any specific inaccuracies, he offered simply this: ‘Most, but not all, of what you read in this book is nonsense.’”
Higgins says that Musk had “plenty of opportunities” to comment and that the story of the conversation with Cook “comes from Musk’s own account of the conversation, according to people who heard the retelling at the time.” In an earlier tweet, he also characterized the story of Musk and Cook’s conversation as one that was “told inside Tesla as the company struggled with the Model X.”
Musk was given plenty of opportunities to comment on this. He didn’t. This anecdote comes from Musk’s own account of the conversation, according to people who heard the retelling at the time. https://t.co/GRKZRBsaeR— Tim Higgins (@timkhiggins) July 30, 2021
As detailed in POWER PLAY, this is a story that was told inside Tesla as the company struggled with the Model X, according to people who heard it, and as some hoped for a white knight to save the day. Musk’s message was clear: Tesla’s fate was in their own hands. https://t.co/4e0KJb3CD2— Tim Higgins (@timkhiggins) July 30, 2021
He also says that Apple “was given several opportunities to comment prior publication and declined.”
Higgins has not replied to a request for comment. A representative for the book’s publisher pointed to Higgins’ Twitter feed.
Shortly after tweeting that he has never met Cook, Musk tweeted in support of Epic’s fight against Apple and its rules on the App Store. “Apple app store fees are a de facto global tax on the Internet,” Musk said. “Epic is right.”
Update July 30th, 3:47PM ET: Added response from the book’s publisher.