Tesla investors demand Elon Musk apologize for calling Thailand diver 'pedo'

Tesla CEO called immature after attacking Vernon Unsworth, who rescued trapped children

Tesla investors have demanded an apology from CEO Elon Musk after he lashed out at a British cave diver who rescued children in Thailand.

Musk’s posts on Twitter sparked backlash from shareholders and Silicon Valley analysts, who called his behavior immature and an impediment to the car company’s success.

The embattled CEO came under fire over the weekend after he baselessly called the diver, Vernon Unsworth, a “pedo” on Twitter and doubled down on the insult before eventually deleting the posts. Musk had flown to Thailand and offered to assist in the rescue mission of 12 boys and their coach from a flooded cave by providing a submarine, but leaders of the operation declined his help.

Unsworth, who was instrumental in the successful rescue, later said Musk’s effort was a “PR stunt”, prompting the Silicon Valley billionaire to say he would make a video proving his “mini-sub” would have worked, adding: “Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it.” The diver, who was still at the cave site assisting with clean-up, told the Guardian he was “astonished and very angry” and considering legal action.

Musk and Tesla have gone silent since he deleted the tweets, ignoring repeated requests for comment since Sunday. Some shareholders, however, are speaking up.

James Anderson, a partner at Baillie Gifford, Tesla’s fourth-largest shareholder, told the Guardian in an email on Tuesday that the company saw “the end of carbon as essential” but, was “frustrated that the real steps towards this are being overshadowed and undermined by this saga”.

Anderson said he agreed with some of Musk’s past remarks calling out critical analysts, “but this is different. We are in contact with the company and we are hopeful that it is being taken with due seriousness.” He said he would like to see “peace, quiet and execution” at the electric car company.

Musk has faced increasing scrutiny in recent months over his bizarre tirades on Twitter and his aggressive attacks on journalists, regulators and other critics. The scandals come amid continuing complaints about workplace safety and a struggle to meet production goals.

If Musk’s behavior did not change, “it could have a dramatic negative impact on the company”, said Gene Munster, head of research at Loup Ventures, a venture capital firm. “It has to start with an apology.”

In addition to losing the confidence of investors, Munster said, “the irony here is that their brand is word of mouth.” The scandals “could negatively impact demand and access to capital”.

Loup Ventures published an open letter to Musk on behalf of investors, saying the comments to Unsworth “crossed the line” and calling for an apology.

“Over the last 6 months, there have been too many examples of concerning behavior that is shaking investor confidence,” the letter said.

Jing Zhao, who recently filed a shareholder proposal to remove Musk as chairman of the Tesla board and install an independent director, said the CEO was being unprofessional and that it was “not his business” to travel to Thailand and try to directly solve the rescue challenges.

Zhao said he believed Musk originally had “good intentions”, but that “humanitarian rescues … are professional tasks so we should trust others with local community connections.

“He should focus on his profession,” Zhao said, adding that if Musk wanted to help these kinds of causes, he should have a separate charity organization.

Zhao also said that this scandal offered further evidence that the company needed an independent chair: “He is not mature enough.”

Tesla’s board members did not respond to requests for comment.

Solar Shed, a British renewable-energy installer, said it would “no longer promote” Tesla-branded products and called on other solar firms to do the same, the Washington Post reported on Monday. The company’s managing director tweeted:“All it takes is a public apology Mr Musk and i will reverse our decision.”

Julia Carrie Wong contributed reporting


Sam Levin in San Francisco

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Elon Musk calls Thailand diver 'child rapist' in new baseless attack
Tesla CEO, who previously called Vernon Unsworth a ‘pedo’, has faced widespread backlash over his comments

Sam Levin in San Francisco

05, Sep, 2018 @12:21 PM

Article image
Elon Musk apologises for calling Thai cave rescuer a 'pedo'
Tesla billionaire says his remarks about Briton Vernon Unsworth were unjustified

Matthew Weaver

18, Jul, 2018 @7:43 AM

Article image
'This is going to get ugly': Azealia Banks ramps up public feud with Elon Musk
Rapper has become embroiled in the fallout over the CEO’s controversial tweet about taking Tesla private

Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco

05, Jan, 2019 @12:44 AM

Article image
Tesla to cut 9% of staff as Elon Musk's electric car company seeks profitability
CEO says thousands of job losses are part of a ‘difficult, but necessary’ restructuring

Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco

12, Jun, 2018 @7:36 PM

Article image
Tesla stock marks lowest close in years as investors worry about Musk’s focus
Experts blame Elon Musk’s management style at Twitter for the electric carmaker’s financial problems

Kari Paul and agencies

27, Dec, 2022 @11:48 PM

Article image
Elon Musk sells Tesla shares worth $4bn
Musk said he was done selling Tesla stock back in August, before Twitter’s legal action sealed the deal for the $44bn takeover

Josh Taylor

09, Nov, 2022 @3:48 AM

Article image
Tesla has another record quarter in tumultuous period for Elon Musk
Electric car company reports $18.8bn in revenue for the first quarter, up 81% from a year before

Kari Paul in San Francisco

21, Apr, 2022 @12:50 AM

Article image
Elon Musk sells $5bn in Tesla stock days after Twitter poll
Billionaire offloads around 3% of his holding – though $1.1bn was already in train before he asked Twitter about reducing stake

Guardian staff and agencies

11, Nov, 2021 @5:47 AM

Article image
Elon Musk reopens California Tesla factory in defiance of lockdown order
CEO announces electric carmaker would begin production Monday following weekend of threats over Covid-19 restrictions

Julia Carrie Wong in Oakland

11, May, 2020 @9:35 PM

Article image
Elon Musk's self-driving evangelism masks risk of Tesla autopilot, experts say
Tesla’s ambitious futurism has earned it loyal fans – but after the death of a driver using autopilot, some say the company should be more explicit about limitations

Sam Levin, Julia Carrie Wong and Nicky Woolf in San Francisco

02, Jul, 2016 @10:00 AM