This story, originally published October 28th, 2022, has been updated because, well, you are never going to guess what happened.
Matt Levine would like you to know that Elon Musk does not actually ruin all of his vacations. Sure, he was at Sesame Place, the theme park just outside Philadelphia, with his kids when Musk announced his Twitter bid, and then stayed up until midnight that night to get his newsletter, Money Stuff, out. But that was kind of fun! “My life has not been ruined by having to write about Elon Musk on Saturdays,” the former mergers and acquisitions lawyer told me. And in M&A, everything happens on the weekend.
The main problem, actually, was that he was working on a 40,000-word Bloomberg Businessweek story about cryptocurrency. “I’m doing a bit,” he says. “I don’t really take vacations.” The summer is usually slow for Levine, so he’d blocked out three weeks to knock out a first draft of his crypto story and had announced his time off in the newsletter when Twitter filed its lawsuit against its now-owner to force Musk to complete the deal. So Levine was back the next day to write about it.
“He’s a very smart guy who is very much not a lawyer, and that is very fruitful.”
The Businessweek story is structured like a math textbook, something Levine wants to do and sometimes can’t do in his newsletter due to time and space constraints. “If you read an upper-level math textbook, it starts from the dumbest thing, like, ‘This is what a number is,’” he says. “It starts from that basic premise and builds from there, and I love that format, and I love that ambition for writing about complicated topics.” Because Bitcoin is such a recent invention, it’s possible to start with the whitepaper and build from there to the major crypto shenanigans you see today.
Levine insists the interruptions weren’t a big deal. He delights in Musk, actually! “He’s a very smart guy who is very much not a lawyer, and that is very fruitful,” Levine says. “He wants things to work in an engineer-y way, and he butts up against things that run in a lawyer-y way.” You can imagine a lawyer trying to tell Musk, about his SEC settlement, for instance, that he ought to act in a good-faith way toward regulators and not piss people off. And you can also imagine Musk saying, “I don’t mind pissing people off — I just want to know exactly what will get me sent to jail for contempt.”
I asked Levine how he gets it all done. “I type really fast!” Levine says. (He also says that if he were to take more time to write, he’d use fewer words.)
As a gift to Levine’s superfans, here is a compilation of him trying to take time off from his newsletter during the Twitter acquisition saga:
- April 4th, 2022: Programming note: Money Stuff was supposed to be off today but, Elon. So here we are.
- April 7th, 2022: Programming note: Money Stuff will be off tomorrow, back on Monday. Unless Elon Musk does something weird I guess.
- April 12th, 2022: Programming note: Money Stuff will be off the rest of the week for a little spring break, back next Monday, April 18.
- April 15th, 2022: “On Tuesday I wrote a column saying it was unlikely that Elon Musk will buy Twitter Inc. On Wednesday I left on a family vacation. On Thursday, for my sins, Elon Musk announced an offer to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share in cash. 420 is a weed joke.”
- May 13th, 2022: Programming note: Money Stuff was supposed to be off today, but then my boss, Elon Musk, called me in to work anyway.
- May 17th, 2022: Programming note: Money Stuff will be off tomorrow, back on Thursday. Unless. You know.
- July 9th, 2022: Programming note: Ugh, here we are again, huh?
- July 12th, 2022: Programming note: Money Stuff is going to be off for a few weeks starting tomorrow. I planned this before Elon Musk tried to cancel his Twitter deal, and I am not a monster, so there will be occasional columns as Musk or other news require. But it will not publish every day; we’ll resume normal service sometime in August.
- July 13th, 2022: Programming note: Lol.
- July 18th, 2022: Programming note: Don’t feel bad about my vacation or anything. I am trying to take some time to focus on other work, so Money Stuff will be published infrequently for the next few weeks.
- October 4th, 2022: Programming note: Money Stuff will be off tomorrow, back on Thursday.
- October 5th, 2022: Programming note: I apparently have some very bad sins to atone for.
- October 6th, 2022: Programming note: If you are Elon Musk, please stop reading this newsletter right now. You have like six companies to run! Get back to work. For the rest of you: Money Stuff will be off tomorrow and Monday, back on Tuesday.
- October 7th, 2022: Programming note: This isn’t working, so let’s try something different. Money Stuff will be back with special editions this afternoon, this evening and at midnight tonight. It will also have several special editions per day over the weekend and on Monday. I don’t know how I am going to fill all this space. I hope news happens, frequently! For instance, it would be enormously helpful to me, as I struggle to find things to write about, if Elon Musk was doing weird things every few hours of this long weekend, so that I could write about them. If you know Musk, you might pass that request along for me. “Elon, Matt Levine really wants you to keep changing your mind on Twitter, so that he can write about it,” you could tell him. I’m sure he would sympathize, and I just don’t know what I will do this weekend without more drama from him
- October 24th, 2022: “I guess this thing is closing this week! It is a good thing I have booked a lavish nonrefundable vacation to start Saturday morning…. I’m kidding, this is a joke about Musk constantly doing wild Twitter stuff every time I say I’ll take a day off Money Stuff, there is no vacation, frankly if I have to write an emergency Money Stuff this Saturday because, like, North Korean hackers intercepted Musk’s closing payment, I’ll be perfectly happy.”
- October 27th, 2022: Programming note: Money Stuff will be off tomorrow, back on Monday. Unless ...
- July 11th, 2023: Disclosure! A long time ago I used to work as a very junior mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The hours were way too long, but I remain fond of the firm and the people there. Meanwhile I have no real personal connection to Elon Musk except that (1) he keeps doing weird stuff financial stuff for me to write about, which I love and (2) he keeps doing it while I am on vacation, which I do not love. And so I went away on Friday and Musk did a thing. He sued Wachtell, which represented Twitter Inc. when Musk tried to get out of his deal to buy Twitter, claiming that Wachtell’s fee for that litigation — $90 million — was too big. I just want to be clear up front about my biases.
Levine seems fond of Musk.
“Elon does some shit every day, and that’s how I get the newsletter done,” Levine says. “I love the shtick I do, ‘Elon keeps ruining my life.’ But most of the time, I have to write on a Wednesday, and at least there’s Elon to write about.”