The top Us securities regulator on Thursday accused Tesla Inc chief executive Elon Musk of fraud and sought to remove him from his role in charge of the electric car company, saying he made a series of “false and misleading” tweets about potentially taking Tesla private last month.
The charges come with Musk facing increased scrutiny over his volatile behavior that has included smoking marijuana during a podcast interview and assailing a Briton involved in the Thailand cave rescue as a “pedo guy.”
Musk has built the widely-admired auto-manufacturer with global ambitions Tesla, along with the private space exploration firm SpaceX, the brain-computer interface startup Neuralink and Boring Company — designed to build tunnels that could transform mass transportation.
This month, SpaceX said it would send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to fly around the moon as early as 2023.
“Elon is Tesla and Tesla is Elon and that’s great when Elon is scoring touchdowns and grand slams but not so great when there are negative things tied to him, “said Karl Brauer, executive publisher at car research firm Kelley Blue Book.
Still, the 47-year-old South African-born Musk is recognized as one of the most influential innovators in the United States, and has an estimated net worth of more than $20 billion.
Musk’s conduct has drawn comparisons to US President Donald Trump, another prominent figure who has embraced filter-free social media and whose mental stability has been questioned.
And like Trump, Musk has lambasted the media and been picky about appearances, granting a few rare interviews to publications like the Wall Street Journal, while favoring Rolling Stone magazine.
Musk has suggested the skeptical coverage of the company stemmed from the media’s dependence on advertising from the oil and conventional car industry. He has discussed creating a website to “rate the core truth of any article” that would be called Pravda.
Regardless of his reputation, Musk, who has frequented the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual gala among other glitzy appearances, has seen his wealth soar with Tesla after earlier ventures.
After leaving South Africa, Musk, who holds US and Canadian nationalities, completed academic work in Ontario and the University of Pennsylvania.
By 25, he had created Zip2, an online advertising platform, and was a millionaire by age 30 after selling the company to Compaq Computer in 1999.
He followed that with the creation of the online bank, X.com, which was later merged into PayPal and in 2002 bought by eBay for $1.5 billion.
He also manages a foundation focused on education, renewable energy and pediatric health.
Musk has also had a stormy personal life, having been divorced three times — twice from the same woman — and has five living sons.