“Elon Musk’s libertarian populism creates more uncertainties than advantages for Tesla”

TONext to political populism, here is the emergence of shareholder populism. How else to call the initiative taken a few days ago by Elon Musk on Twitter? The whimsical entrepreneur pretended to take the pulse of his 63 million subscribers on the social network to find out whether or not he should sell 10% of his Tesla shares.

Under the pretext of responding to criticisms according to which not to tax the unrealized capital gains of a stock market portfolio would be assimilated to tax evasion, the boss of the electric car manufacturer says he is ready to make his gains, and therefore to pay taxes, if his followers give him the green light. This was done by 58% of the 3.5 million accounts that participated in the consultation.

The stakes are high. According to FactSet, Mr. Musk owns 17% of the capital of Tesla, whose total valuation exceeds 1000 billion dollars (874 billion euros). Ten percent of its assets are therefore equivalent to twenty billion, the equivalent of twice the value of Renault! Wednesday November 10, Mr. Musk had already pocketed $ 5 billion by exercising some of his stock options.

Most complete demagoguery

By having the operation validated by the vox populi on Twitter, the richest man in the world has once again turned into a king of the trolls, that is to say into a patent provocateur of the Web, at the expense of the governance of his company, stock market regulators and the American government, all in complete demagoguery.

The first target is the government. The aim is to castigate the intentions of the Biden administration to tax the biggest fortunes in the country. At this stage, faced with the reluctance of Congress, the idea fizzled out. Never mind, Mr. Musk has always had a complicated tax relationship.

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Tesla’s head office has just left California for Texas, a more lenient land from a tax standpoint. The world leader in electric cars, whose capitalization exceeds that of all the other manufacturers, no doubt no longer needs the ecosystem of Silicon Valley, after having taken advantage of it.

It also doesn’t matter that Tesla benefited from the taxpayer’s largesse under the Obama administration, when it came to loaning Mr. Musk $ 465 million in 2009 to finance the development of his first model. It also doesn’t matter that his other company, SpaceX, lives largely on public procurement.

Mr. Musk had every interest in getting rid of part of his wealth by 2022: the federal capital gains tax will drop from 23.8% to 31.8%. But, of course, let’s not imagine a mean calculation: it was his followers who asked him to do it.

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