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Saudi PIF spat with Elon Musk revealed in US federal court

'It is weak sauce', Musk texted Saudi PIF managing director Yasir al-Rumayyan, as the Tesla CEO failed to secure funding to take the company private
Elon Musk speaks at the Tesla Giga Texas manufacturing 'Cyber Rodeo' grand opening party in Austin, Texas, 6 April 2022 (AFP)

Text messages revealed in a US court have shed light on a spat between the managing director of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and American billionaire Elon Musk. 

According to Bloomberg News, Tesla shareholders are currently suing Musk, the car company's CEO, in a US federal court over an "indisputably false" tweet he posted in August 2018. 

In the now infamous tweet, Musk wrote: "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured." 

The funding - including from the Saudi PIF - did not materialise, and Tesla's stock price rose and fell dramatically, with shareholders arguing that this cost them billions of dollars. 

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Musk's lawyers are arguing that the tweet, posted to his tens of millions of followers, was "entirely truthful".

As part of the legal case, an exchange of messages between Musk and Yasir al-Rumayyan, managing director of the Saudi PIF, was presented to the court in which the two men discussed the investment fund taking the publicly traded Tesla private.

Musk complained in the messages to Rumayyan about a Bloomberg article reporting that the PIF was "said to be in talks" to take Tesla private.

“This is an extremely weak statement and does not reflect the conversation we had at Tesla. You said you were definitely interested in taking Tesla private and had wanted to do so since 2016," Musk texted Rumayyan, before adding: “I’m sorry, but we cannot work together.”

Rumayyan responded: “It’s up to you Elon."

“You are throwing me under the bus,” Musk texted back. “It takes two to tango,” wrote Rumayyan in response. “We haven’t received anything yet.”

'It is weak sauce'

Rumayyan added later that the Saudi PIF "cannot approve something that we don’t have sufficient information on”, and that he was still waiting for more financial information.

"It is weak sauce and still makes me sound like a liar," Musk told Rumayyan in reference to the Bloomberg article. "It is filled with equivocation and in no way indicates the strong interest you conveyed in person.”

The Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, did not move forward to take Tesla private. Musk's decision to keep Tesla public, after saying publicly that he was thinking of taking it private and had secured the investment to do so, led to wild swings in its stock price.

By 2018, the Saudi PIF had invested almost $45bn in Silicon Valley start-ups through Softbank Vision Fund, a venture capital fund that is part of the Japanese Softbank Group.

The push was part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's new strategy for the kingdom, with an April 2018 tour of the US seeing him meet with technology and digital executives in California. 

Musk, whose Tesla company is a driving force in the electric car industry, now holds a nine percent stake in Twitter, and is rumoured to be on the verge of closing a deal to buy the social media platform outright.

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