Musk Gave Sierra Club $6 Million, Then Tried Securing Cash From OPEC To Take Tesla Private

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s suggestion that oil-rich Saudi Arabia could finance his move to take the company private came shortly after the tech billionaire admitted donating millions to the Sierra Club.

Musk asked the activist group’s executive director in July to publicize an anonymous $6 million donation he made to the group in 2018 presumably to distract from donations the entrepreneur made to the GOP. His request came the same month Musk sought funding from Saudi Arabia.

“I left the July 31st meeting with no question that a deal with the Saudi sovereign fund could be closed, and that it was just a matter of getting the process moving,” the Tesla CEO wrote Monday in a post on the company’s website. “This is why I referred to ‘funding secured’ … ”

Musk called Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, on July 18 and asked that he make public the sizable contributions that had previously been anonymous. He also enlisted Brune to vouch for him on Twitter to quell a firestorm over the billionaire’s $38,900 contribution to a committee campaigning to keep Congress in the arms of the GOP.

Musk told his Twitter followers in an Aug. 7 tweet that he had secured “funding” to take the company private at $420 per share, far more than the company’s current worth. His tweet followed a report suggesting Saudi Arabia became a major Tesla shareholder earlier in 2018. (RELATED: Tesla Suspends Trading After Elon Musk’s Cryptic Tweet On The Company’s Future)

Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) bought up 5 percent of the electric vehicle maker’s shares in 2018. The PIF’s position is worth between $1.7 billion and $2.9 billion at Tesla’s current share price. The stake makes the fund one of Tesla’s eight biggest shareholders. Musk says the July meeting with the fund changed everything.

The Saudi family initially approached Musk with a deal purchasing shares in the company, but Tesla balked at the request, according to the report. PIF instead acquired the position through secondary markets with the help of JPMorgan. The exact date of the purchase likely happened while Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was touring the U.S. in March.

Sierra Club, an organization that has campaigned for years against the fossil fuel industry, began a full-fledged campaign in 2017 to resuscitate a long-dead Democrat proposal to effectively ban energy production on federal land. The group effectively promoted a “keep it in the ground” slogan, suggesting Sierra Club activists were dead-set on squelching all forms of energy.

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