The World’s richest man, Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla, has sold about $5 billion in shares following a Twitter poll in which supporters voted for him to sell 10% of its ownership.
After polling his 63 million Twitter followers over the weekend, the multi-billionaire said he would sell the shares, which account for 3% of Tesla’s total holdings. The poll found that 57.9% of respondents favoured the proposal, while 42.1% were opposed. According to official documents, Musk has sold more than 4.5 million shares this week. It had been more than five years since he had sold anything.
Musk, known for inciting controversy on Twitter, sparked a storm over the weekend when he posted a poll asking if he should sell a portion of his Tesla stock. While he presented his proposal in response to the controversy surrounding billionaires evading taxes, documents show that some transactions were planned as early as mid-September, weeks before the poll. In his tweets, he also should have mentioned that he has millions of stock options that must be exercised before they expired in August 2022.
Musk’s stock was sold in the late hours of Wednesday, marking his first stock sale since he exercised a stock selling option in 2016. In a September interview with tech journalist Kara Swisher, the billionaire claimed that a big chunk of his stock options would expire in August 2022 and that he would sell them in the fourth quarter (Q4). He sold some of the stock to pay a nearly $600 debt. Tesla stock fell 16% in the first two days of the week after the poll resulted in a clear vote for Musk to sell. The stock recovered some of its losses on Wednesday and Thursday, closing up 4.3% and rising 2.5%.
“The stock market is rebounding because there appears to be a method to his madness,” AJ Bell analyst Danni Hewson said. “It is about assuring the market that he did not do this on the spur of the moment or because his Twitter followers told him to. He had already decided and had it rubber-stamped.”
According to documents with the US stock market regulator, Elon Musk sold over 3.7 million shares in Tesla valued at around $4 billion, as well as 934,000 shares for $1.1 billion.
Musk explained to his followers that selling shares would help him meet his tax obligations. “Because much has been made recently about unrealized gains as a means of tax evasion, I recommend selling 10% of my Tesla stock,” he said. I will monitor the results of this poll regardless of the outcome.” “I only have stock,” he continued, “so selling shares is the only way for me to pay taxes personally.”
Musk has stated that Tesla does not pay him in cash but instead in stock. He exercised stock options given as part of his salary package in 2012, which is set to expire in August of next year as part of the new transaction. Musk has one stock option to purchase 22.86 million Tesla shares for $6.24 apiece, but if he does not execute it, the shares will become worthless after the expiration date. Such transactions trigger income taxes, usually paid with funds earned by the quick sale of some newly acquired shares.
His move comes as US Democrats propose a “billionaires tax,” in which the wealthiest people in the country will be taxed on “unrealized gains” even if they do not sell any of their shares. “Elon Musk is compensated in large chunks of stock rather than a salary. You have to let go of some of your attention at some point. “This was made known by Art Hogan, the chief market analyst at National Securities in New York, “This is not a new concept. It attracts more attention since it is a high-market-cap, attention-getting corporation.”
Musk had a 23% stake in Tesla before selling part of his shares—the shares he traded account for around 3% of Musk’s total stake in the company. However, whether the sale was tied to his weekend Twitter poll or if he plans to sell more is unclear. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, he still possessed over 170 million Tesla shares, or about 17% ownership in the firm, before the sales. However, with the sale of a large 10% of his stock, that position may soon be jeopardized.
It has sparked rumours on the internet that he may be considering leaving Tesla to focus on SpaceX operations, but Musk has not acknowledged this. For now, however, his position is secure, with an estimated 15% ownership following the sale of a portion of his nearly $200 billion interest in the company. Musk’s fortune has grown as Tesla’s stock price has risen from around $130 at the start of 2020 to $1,222.09 last Friday.