No, it hasn’t gotten to this just yet, but we shouldn’t even be having this conversation.
The SEC’s decision to sue Tesla CEO Elon Musk, with the intention of barring him from serving as an executive or director not only of Tesla, but of any corporation under the jurisdiction of the SEC, was the height of folly. Do any of us, including the SEC commissioners involved, really believe that our society would have been better off with Elon Musk on the sidelines? Do they really think that anyone else could do the job of representing Tesla, or the future, better than Elon Musk?
Let’s be clear, there are a lot of smart people in Silicon Valley. But, most of them are not named “Elon Musk.” What we discovered over the weekend was that that name was worth at least $6 billion in value, and possibly a lot more, based on the fall in market capitalization on the day following the announcement of the SEC action. It’s hard to imagine very many other people whose suspension from work life would bring such a hit on the very next day. Yet, I suspect that very few of us are actually surprised. In our minds, Tesla is Musk, and without Musk, what is Tesla?
Far from being a Musk apologist or fanboy, I am arguing from a position of historical parallel and contemporary commonsense. I am not condoning his actions which might have misrepresented Tesla’s situation, and possibly compromised investors, but we live at a time when misrepresentation on a much grander scale, including climate change, international relationships and the health of our economy, appears to be the name of the game at the very highest levels of our society and yet goes on without remark or approbation, to the extent that the case against Elon Musk appears to be ridiculous by Trump-era standards, despite the technicalities that might have been involved. To be honest, for most of us, Elon Musk does not appear to be the sort of person that we would choose to hang-out with, too intense, too ambitious, possibly narcistic. Yet, that is not the point here. What Musk brings to Tesla, and to us all, is the ability to weave a story that promises to free us from much of the political, health and climate consequences of fossil fuel dependencies, charm investors enough to generate the necessary capital, and then actually begin to deliver on that promise. Name three other individuals who you think could perform at a similar level. I don’t need to be willing to spend a weekend at the beach with him to be willing to acknowledge his gift, and the importance that it represents. He is simply too valuable to too many people to be sidelined so preemptively.
Read the full post at Forbes.
Bill Fischer is a Visiting Professor of Operations Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.