Elon Musk claimed in court on Monday that Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) board of directors controls the firm, but that the electric vehicle maker Tesla would die if he weren’t the CEO. Musk was testifying in defense of Tesla’s 2016 acquisition of SolarCity.
On Monday morning, Elon Musk gave his opening statement in a Wilmington, Delaware courthouse, defending Tesla’s $2.6 billion acquisition of solar energy company SolarCity.
Musk also controlled roughly 22% of Tesla at the time of the SolarCity purchase, which is interesting. Lyndon and Peter Rive, two of Musk’s cousins, started SolarCity.
Musk, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt, and a slightly skewed dark tie, testified on the first day of a two-week trial in Wilmington, Delaware, that he has tried “very hard not to be the CEO of Tesla, but I have to or frankly, Tesla is going to die.”
Musk is accused of dominating board meetings, pressuring Tesla to pay more for SolarCity, and misleading shareholders about the company’s poor financial health, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Musk put a lot of pressure on Tesla’s board to buy SolarCity in 2016, when the firm was cash-strapped and on the verge of bankruptcy. At the time of Tesla’s acquisition, Musk controlled a 22 percent share in SolarCity.
The purchase was completed in 2016 and handed Tesla complete control of the solar panel manufacturer, a move that some Tesla shareholders did not approve of, with some claiming it was a bailout of SolarCity.
Musk testified in court that the SolarCity acquisition was handled by the Tesla board and that he was not a member of the board committee that negotiated the conditions.
“I don’t even know what happened,” he testified.
Vice-Chancellor Joseph Slights will be present in Courtroom 7E of the Wilmington Courthouse for the two-week trial. In the end, he’ll judge whether Tesla’s purchase of SolarCity was a good deal for shareholders.
During cross-examination by shareholder attorney Randall Baron, Musk remained calm, although his yes or no queries often drew long, rambling answers. Musk referred to the lawyer as a “bad human being” at one point.