Jeffrey Epstein said he once spoke to Saudis about possibly investing in Tesla while company CEO Elon Musk was looking for ways to go private, New York Times reporter James Stewart noted in a report Monday, citing an interview he had with Epstein in 2018.
Epstein said he talked to Saudis about financing the electric car company but refused to provide any specifics, Stewart noted. He said someone in Musk’s universe contacted him about the possible arrangement. Epstein died of an apparent suicide Aug. 10, less than a month after he was arrested in July for alleged sex-trafficking of minors.
“I’d never met Mr. Epstein before,” Stewart wrote. “I had contacted him because my colleagues and I had heard a rumor that he was advising Tesla’s embattled chief executive, Elon Musk, who was in trouble after announcing on Twitter that he had lined up the funding to take Tesla private.”
Stewart decided to publish content of the interview, which was on background, after Epstein’s death. Epstein evaded Stewart’s questions on Musk and Tesla, instead giving indirect answers without divulging names. (RELATED: What’s Next For The Epstein Case?)
Tesla vehemently denies Epstein advised Musk.
“It is incorrect to say that Epstein ever advised Elon on anything,” company spokeswoman Keely Sulprizio said Monday.
Stewart’s interview came one week after Musk told his Twitter followers in an Aug. 7 post that he secured “funding” to take Tesla private at $420 per share, far more than the company’s worth. His tweet followed a report suggesting Saudi Arabia became a major Tesla shareholder in 2018. His antics prompted a full-blown federal investigation.
Musk eventually backslid on the idea, writing in an Aug. 25, 2018, blog post that “most of Tesla’s existing shareholders believe we are better off as a public company.”
“Moving forward, we will continue to focus on what matters most: building products that people love and that make a difference to the shared future of life on Earth,” he added.
Musk also told his Twitter follower in the Aug. 7 post that they’d be able to own and keep their stock if the company went private. But financial rules prevent everyone who currently holds public shares from seamlessly moving into the private side, because there are different tiers of shareholders. His gamble was likely strategic, designed to limit distractions.
Musk, who owns more than 20% of the company, and Tesla agreed to resolve a Securities and Exchange Commission probe involving the tweet in October 2018 without admitting or denying wrongdoing.
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