In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri speaks with Mark Spiegel, Managing Member & Portfolio Manager of Stanphyl Capital Partners, a New York-based equity investor who has been publicly short Tesla since 2013. Mark has also been openly critical of the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, whom he believes is committing securities fraud by misleading investors about the capabilities of Tesla’s present and future products and financial prospects.
In our most recent episode with Charley Grant of the Wall Street Journal, we discussed the state of Tesla’s financials and the overall health of the company’s business, which seems increasingly dire. The Tesla story also sits at the intersection of a number of powerful forces that we have covered on this program: the ready availability of cheap financing, the growing wealth and income gap, and the preponderance of technology in the popular culture. In this sense, Tesla is about more than just electric vehicles or the car manufacturing business. It is a poster child for the financial excesses, stock price manipulations, and general euphoria for anything “tech” related that we have seen during this latest bull-market. The rise of Tesla also stands as a testament to the power of personality and to the inextricable role that Elon Musk has played in building faith among the company’s shareholders and the general public.
As the Federal Reserve continues to tighten by raising interest rates, companies like Tesla, which have relied on cheap financing in order to fund their businesses, are coming under significant pressure. The company’s stock has been besieged by speculative shorts and heavy selling in March, though it has recouped more than half of those losses in the past week. Still, serious questions remain about the company’s path towards profitability. Does it even have one? Assuming Tesla can raise the capital it needs from investors over the next six months, can it manage to overcome the major production challenges that have plagued the Model 3? What happens when Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes, and Porsche, each come to market with their own electric vehicles, some of which are cheaper and seen by many as more attractive than Tesla’s suite of electric cars? And, what about Elon Musk? The famous short seller Jim Chanos, who took down Enron in the early 2000’s for defrauding its investors, has made similar claims against the popular Silicon Valley car executive. The cult of Elon Musk surpasses anything we have seen in decades. Some would say that even Steve Jobs did not command as much adoration from congregations of the faithful. And yet, there is something noticeably rotten in the state of Denmark…
In last week’s episode, we asked the question “what is the path towards profitability for Tesla?” In this week’s episode, Mark Spiegel questions the very credibility of Elon Musk, as CEO of the electric car company. Can he and Tesla survive the onslaught of bad publicity amid a rocky period for capital markets and for the company’s stock? Ten years from now, will we look back at Tesla as the poster child for this latest bull market? Is Elon Musk the personification of a bubble in tech? Only time will tell.
***Disclaimer: This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions.***
Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas
Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou