Musk to Advertisers: “Go &*!# Yourself”

Articles From: Interactive Brokers
Website: Interactive Brokers

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Chief Strategist

Interactive Brokers

(On most days have not even one theme song, but today we have two:

Heard It On the X” – ZZ Top

            “Cult of Personality” – Living Colour)

Like many, I tuned into Elon Musk’s interview at the New York Times Dealbook conference.  Also, like many, I was stunned by what I heard.  As I noted to an acquaintance at the time,

I tuned in for the Cybertruck hype and a mea culpa and stayed for the psychoanalysis and extraterrestrial musings.

But the “highlight,” as it were, came as part of a discussion about advertiser boycotts on X.  I was stunned when I heard it the first time, even more when he paused for effect and slowly repeated it for emphasis.  Consider me old-fashioned, but I’ve never thought that being completely dismissive of, if not hostile to, your customers is a great way to impress them.  But it’s quite clear that Elon Musk can and does play by a different set of rules than anyone else.  To be sure, it’s worked quite well for him.

I’ve frequently referred to Tesla (TSLA) as a “faith-based stock.”  Our explanation from October 2020 still applies:

By conventional measures such as P/E ratios, the stock’s valuation borders on insane.  But investors who focused on the company’s technology and future prospects have been richly rewarded.  They have seemingly unshakeable faith in Elon Musk and his ability to deliver groundbreaking technology.  Why change tactics when faith is working so well, they might ask?

TSLA rallied about 250% in the year following that piece, and although it had a rocky ride since its $414 high in November 2021, it is still up over 60% in the three years since we wrote that.  Longer-term shareholders may indeed be up 5X, 10X or more.  Their faith paid off immensely.

By this point, Musk’s unconventionality is a feature, not a bug. No other CEO could come away from an interview of that sort with his stock relatively unscathed. (TSLA is down -1.8% as I type this.) Imagine if Jaime Dimon or Bob Iger, for example, spoke wistfully about colonizing other planets, offered psychological musings about their childhoods, and spent the better part of an hour discussing their foibles on social media, while barely discussing a widely anticipated new product launch.  How much lower would another CEO’s stock be on the following day? 

For that matter, could one suggest that any other CEO engaged in publicly outlandish behavior to distract from the launch of a controversial product?  Not everyone is in love with the Cybertruck, yet very few of us are discussing it today. 

Yet no other major company CEO is also the CEO of a rocket company (SpaceX) and the primary owner of a social media company (X).  Extraterrestrial adventures and social media misadventures are part of Musk’s bailiwick.  No other public company CEO could get away with running so many other significant businesses, all of which are privately held, without having their stock severely punished. 

It would be fascinating to see how the valuation of X might react to such a profound dismissal of its largest customers, but it has neither publicly traded stock nor post-takeover bonds.  In a comment to a different acquaintance, I wrote:

Stunning.  The X bond holders have to be freaking out even more than they were already.

It is believed that Morgan Stanley (MS) holds the bulk of the bonds used to finance Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, yet its stock is modestly higher (+0.8%) on the day.  MS investors certainly don’t seem too nervous about the most recent developments.

Let’s face it – Elon Musk did not become the world’s richest person by doing things in a conventional manner.  And for that, he has been granted unique leeway to do and say more or less whatever he wants.  If you make a lot of other people rich, it is quite sensible for those folks to approve of your methods – no matter how outlandish they seem.  In Musk’s career so far, he’s earned the ability to do and say what he wants, no matter how outlandish or controversial.  The faithful are keeping the faith.  The question going forward is whether the multitude of other shareholders remain quite as faithful. 

24 thoughts on “Musk to Advertisers: “Go &*!# Yourself””

  1. Elon is a “rain man”. He’s a brain with only a single function. Compute and spit out the result. Whatever that is. He’s not a human. He’s a “thing”. Useless other than his automobile/space. He hasn’t really invented anything. Not even EV’s. They existed long before he did. We tend to idolize “rich” in the USA. Even if rich means moronic behavior.

  2. Elon is a “rain man”. He’s a brain with only a single function. Compute and spit out the result. Whatever that is. He’s not a human. He’s a “thing”. Useless other than his automobile/space. He hasn’t really invented anything. Not even EV’s. They existed long before he did. We tend to idolize “rich” in the USA. Even if rich means moronic behavior.

  3. What a world we could all live in if every body just spoke there minds, musk is right Bob igar is nothing more than a liberal puppet spewing garbage, just like his stock!

  4. It is a characteristic of those who are on the spectrum that they often miss the social cues that most of us are accustomed to using to navigate the world. Whether he is oblivious to effect of “biting the hand” of those who feed us, or if his wealth has insulated him from fear of financial failure. The point here is we should be aware that unlike most other CEOs we can’t count on him to act in a manner that will protect his shareholders, or even to give a damn. And in interest of full disclosure, I have a small position in TSLA, which I have held because of the product and in spite of the CEO’s odd behavior.

  5. We’ve given an inept social person unlimited cash, and it shows. Stick to tech, not social opinions…you know, like Zuck. His answer/dodge on environmental issues vs free speech pretty much said free speech is more important. Fine. Yet his own nerd vulnerabilities and insecurities show when he has to throttle and censor others on the platform he owns.

  6. The value of X is likely down 80-90% but Tesla and his other businesses are very different. The ego and narcissism of that man is something to behold.

  7. If you’re calling Musk names and accusing him of being autistic, that really smacks of envy and resentment. The man is brilliant and his status as the world’s richest person didn’t just fall in his lap, he got there by his wits and abilities. He’s eccentric, I will agree on that.

  8. Glad some people are defending Musk. Everyone should be impressed with him telling these companies to F off. He cannot be blackmailed or influenced and comparing him to Zuck who is a loser who control your free speech on his platform shows you’re a sheep. You can’t comment that some jeans are ugly on instagram without them locking your account. That’s insane. No one should be afraid of words.

  9. Just want to reply to Anonymous above who stated “Elon is a moron”…. and you are with 100% a loser in comparison.

    I am not a huge fan of expletives for the sake of shock value. But in his case, and to his defense, he said it in a very particular context. He clearly said they were trying to blackmail him with their money. These large companies are all woke machines trying to play the cancel card on Musk with their advertising money, and I think the answer from Musk was appropriate, not by using expletives but in its intent. It is a pity he cannot legally boycott them from advertising on his platform, but if he could he would. It was a gigantic middle finger to the woke community and I can only respect him more for that. Musk is NOT antisemitic and we all know that, including the woke mob, but the opportunity was there for the woke mob to destroy a non-leftist powerful man and they sorely failed.

  10. IBM, Disney and other predatory corporations tried to blackmail Musk because he does not censor criticism of BigPharma, BigWar or the Gaza genocide The Twitter files proved that Twitter was just a tool of the CIA and that Facebook still is. And somehow Musk is the bad guy because he … wait for it … used a cuss word.

  11. It’s not blackmail. It’s simply business. If you don’t like a partner, you take your bankroll somewhere else. And advertisers won’t kill X. If it dies, it’s the fault of the guy running it.

  12. Musk says, louder, things that a lot of us may think inside. instead of him, we say these only in our home.
    For some that are scandalized, please read the last book on Musk, very well written by Walter Isaacson and you should have a better understanding of his attitude, above all, in anyway…

  13. Wow Steve,
    Can you say Elon Msuk one more time…
    I”m absolutely baffled by how our species manages to reproduce (to the the extent of overpopulation although no one is still willing to admit it), when the neo-cortex cannot coexist with its animal brain neighbour.
    Politics is always entertaining… even outside the political spectrum!
    And people still complain they can say what they want? Looks to me like their animal brain is pounding the hell out of their neo-cortex and their still not content with the results…
    As far as I’m concerned, we’ve all spoken freely here!

  14. “Blackmail”? He is in business and his customers get what they want or leave. Even a genius must understand that fact. God Bless him!

  15. Elon knows that you can’t fix stupid so “flippin em off” helps define the battlefield. With how this world hinges on good and evil, going woke along with Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) is ole slewfoots last stand presented to us in the new world order system that Elon seems to have put out with the trash where it belongs! Outside of the vernacular, I say way to go Elon! PS. Aunt Betty used to say, “Up your nighty with a blow torch!”

  16. @Segio – regardless of the characterizations, money always talks. Elon Musk’s adventure into social media means that his success or failure depends on the advertising dollars he needs. Telling them to F off is a petulant response to his frequent missteps. These corporations have their own bottom lines to worry about – and along with money, perception is king. Call it whatever you like (woke, blah blah blah) Elon Musk is wealthy enough to not worry much about containing the fallout from his frequently stupid comments. He can say whatever he wants, but people and companies everywhere will judge him, and spend their dollars accordingly.

  17. Never admired him more! At least one guy out there has a pair, THANK GOD. When did the world become so plastic and false that the moment a real emotion is tapped you guys dropped your nail file? About time a little REAL LIFE leaked into the glazed over half broken world- or we can’t talk about that either? And by the way- why was Gay Day so artificially scheduled & prepared for children?! When did it become ok for schools to promote or take an official stance on sexual matters with children? Watchin from Canada, couldn’t believe how it’s WW3 everyday it’s not a voting day, nothing works, but Pride Day systematically became a public parade not fit for children nor grandmothers, and that’s ok?? Power to those not afraid to be actual humans, to say something when it matters, no matter the subject’s popularity or who said what – ISSUES BEHIND THE REMARK are far more important. Glad he got your attention, remember the reason he said it? You guys would say something if a person burst into flames in front of your eyes, right?? Right??

  18. Convfefe mentality? What about the mentality of a company who is supposedly all about the well-being of children but won’t touch Mel Gibson and Denzel Washington’s “The Sound Of Freedom” with a ten foot pole. Weird 🤔

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