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Tomlinson: Elon Musk's move to Texas has been an epic disaster, with no end in sight – Houston Chronicle

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CEO of Tesla Motors Elon Musk speaks at the Tesla Giga Texas manufacturing “Cyber Rodeo” grand opening party, in Austin, Texas, on April 7, 2022.
Elon Musk arrives for the 2022 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2022, in New York.
The Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Starbase launch facility under construction in Boca Chica, Texas. From a sprawling factory outside Austin to a property-buying binge on the Gulf Coast, Elon Musk is making an imprint in a state that has long welcomed eccentric outsiders.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the Tesla Giga Texas manufacturing “Cyber Rodeo” grand opening party on April 7, 2022, in Austin, Texas.
The Tesla Gigafactory under construction in Austin, Texas, U.S. From a sprawling factory outside Austin to a property-buying binge on the Gulf Coast, Elon Musk is making an imprint in a state that has long welcomed eccentric outsiders.
Texas Governor Rick Perry and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk break ground on a new spaceport at Boca Chica Beach in far south Texas.
Elon Musk has to wonder if he squatted on his spurs by moving to Texas from California.
Tesla’s stock price has plummeted 40 percent, he’s launched an ill-considered attempt to buy Twitter, and Gov. Greg Abbott is deleting supportive tweets, trying to avoid getting caught up in allegations Musk engaged in indecent in-flight behavior.
The whole “Gone To Texas” thing isn’t working out for the world’s wealthiest man.
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For those who didn’t learn Texas History, our state had a reputation in the early 1800s for welcoming people fleeing law enforcement, debt collectors, illicit lovers, and all manner of scams. Frederick Law Olmsted wrote in his 1857-book “Journey Through Texas” that authorities would write GTT next to the names of known scoundrels on the lam and on the doors of their abandoned homes.
Musk did not exactly flee California, but it was close. He initially defied public health orders to shutter the Fremont Tesla factory to slow COVID-19. He then sued the county for not lifting the order in May 2020 and announced plans to relocate Tesla’s headquarters.
On Oct. 7, 2021, Musk announced the Tesla factory in Austin was the new home office. The company’s stock peaked at $1,243.49 in November. This weeks, TSLA has traded in the mid-$600s, and some analysts think it will go lower.
Tesla’s descending stock price makes Musk’s purchase of Twitter more difficult if he even thinks it’s still a good idea. I wonder if Rocket Man’s thinking is clouded by his weekly chats with Abbott, smoking weed with Austin-based podcaster Joe Rogan, or hanging out on the Boca Chica launchpad with Kanye West.
Musk began purchasing Twitter stock in January. But he rapidly changed his mind about accepting a board seat and decided to buy the joint.
Then he priced it as if it were a joint. His offer of $54.20 referenced 4:20, which according to legend, is an optimal time for a toke. Suppose the stock was actually worth $50 a share, which would be high, adding $4.20 to make a joke cost $4.1 billion.
Twitter’s share price this week hovers around $37. He offered $44 billion for a company that Wall Street values at $27.8 billion.
Investors doubt he’ll seal the deal. Musk recently said the transaction was “on hold” until Twitter can explain how many accounts are automated bots rather than people.
Musk said if 25 percent of the accounts are bots, he’ll expect a 25 percent discount. A quarter off $54.20 would be $40.65 a share, a more reasonable price. But who wants to bet he won’t suggest $42 a share?
The real reason for the fuss is Musk’s net worth has dropped by about $124.20 billion since November. Most of his money is tied up in Tesla stock, so he borrows against it to buy things like Twitter. The lower value, the less money he can borrow.
Since moving to Texas, Musk has also found himself more entangled in politics. Abbott told CNBC that he talks to Musk weekly and that he approves of the state’s conservative policies, including an abortion ban. Tesla, meanwhile, has promised to fly women to other states if they need an abortion.
“In the past I voted Democrat, because they were (mostly) the kindness party,” Musk tweeted on May 18. “But they have become the party of division & hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican. Now, watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold.”
Musk did not mention that a Business Insider reporter had recently contacted SpaceX about a $250,000 legal settlement to silence a flight attendant who accused Musk of exposing himself and propositioning her. Republicans have a better history of overlooking such things than Democrats.
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After Business Insider posted the story on May 19, Musk wrote: “The attacks against me should be viewed through a political lens – this is their standard (despicable) playbook – but nothing will deter me from fighting for a good future and your right to free speech.”
Abbott’s campaign Twitter predictably voiced support for Musk: “.@elonmusk picked the right state to move to.” But then someone deleted the tweet seven minutes later, the Dallas Morning News reported. Campaign officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Musk claims to support free speech, but he’s not releasing his employees from their non-disclosure agreements. He also tried to buy off a man who tracks Musk’s private jets on Twitter. Rocket Man is not a fan of free speech about him.
People can debate whether Musk has changed since moving to Texas or if only his luck has changed. But the new Texan’s wealth and reputation have definitely taken a turn.
Chris Tomlinson writes commentary about business, economics and politics.
Chris Tomlinson has written commentary on business, energy and economics for the Houston Chronicle since 2014. He’s the author of two New York Times Bestsellers, “Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth” and “Tomlinson Hill: The Remarkable Story of Two Families Who Share the Tomlinson Name – One White, One Black.” Before joining the Chronicle, he spent 20 years with The Associated Press reporting on politics, economics, conflicts and natural disasters from more than 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.


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