Elon Musk Blames Saudi Investor for ‘Backpedaling’ Support

  • Musk defended his “funding secured” tweet in a securities fraud trial brought by Tesla shareholders.
  • He testified that he sent the tweet after verbal assurances from Saudi investor Yasir Al-Rumayyan. 
  • Musk placed the blame on Al-Rumayyan, who he accused of “backpedaling” on their plans. 

Elon Musk said he’d tweeted about planning to take Tesla private partly after assurances by a significant Saudi Arabian investor, whom he accused of later “backpedaling” and “ass-covering” to slink out of an alleged agreement.

In an ongoing civil trial in San Francisco federal court, Musk continued to defend his 2018 tweet about having the “funding secured,” for a Tesla transaction, saying that Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Private Investment Fund, had “verbally” expressed support for the plan. 

Musk said that in a gathering in July 2018, Al-Rumayyan told him, then-Tesla chief financial officer Deepak Ahuja, and Musk’s then chief-of-staff Sam Teller that the Saudi investors “were committed” to a plan they were discussing to take the carmaker private. 

He said that Al-Rumayyan told them that “they might do whatever it took to get it done,” and that he’d been “unequivocal” about supporting the deal. Then in a conversation after Musk’s tweet, Al-Rumayyan softened his stance to say that the Saudi PIF were fascinated with looking into possible investment opportunities with Tesla, Musk said. 

“At this point, Yasir is clearly backpedaling from what he told me, and Deepak and Sam, that they were committed to the transaction,” Musk said in his testimony on Monday in the continuing civil trial, during which Musk is facing investors’ claims that he misled them about wanting to take Tesla private and having secured the funding to achieve this.

“That is ass-covering, for lack of a greater word,” he added, suggesting that Al-Rumayyan could have been concerned about potential legal exposure. 

Al-Rumayyan, Musk, and Musk’s attorney didn’t reply to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication. Spokespeople for PIF and Tesla also didn’t reply to a request for comment. The request was made outside of standard working hours in Saudi Arabia.

The attorney for Tesla’s shareholders, Nicholas Porritt, told Insider that his team attempted to get evidence from Al-Rumayyan and the PIF, but they didn’t respond.

Nonetheless, Porritt said, “there isn’t any reason to think that Al-Rumayyan would testify inconsistently along with his contemporaneous documents similar to the PIF minutes of the July 31 meeting and his text messages with Elon Musk that were shown in Court today.” 

Those text messages between Musk and the investor were revealed last yr as a component of the pretrial discovery process. In them, the Tesla CEO accused Al-Rumayyan of throwing him “under the bus.” On the time, the texts show Al-Rumayyan said PIF couldn’t commit to a project “that we do not have sufficient information on.”

In 2020, the sovereign wealth fund sold 99.5% of its Tesla holdings after hedging its position on the electric-car in 2019 shortly after Musk agreed to pay a $20 million positive with the Securities and Exchange Commission over his tweet.

Musk is about to take the stand for a 3rd day on Tuesday. The billionaire claims he planned to take Tesla private on the time of tweeting “funding secured” in August 2018. Tesla shareholders that bought the electric-car maker’s stock in the times following the tweet are suing him, searching for billions of dollars in damages.

This story has been updated to incorporate comments from the attorney for Tesla shareholders, Nicholas Porritt. 

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