Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO briefly discuss a potential acquisition with Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled “Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century,” as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.
A new book reports that a testy phone call between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple boss Tim Cook ended abruptly with some not-so-kind words from the latter. Musk claims it never happened. According to Tim Higgins’ “Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century,” around 2016, as Tesla struggled to ramp up production of the Model 3 sedan, Musk and Cook spoke on the phone about Apple potentially acquiring the fledgling car startup. Musk was open to a deal, but he had one condition Cook couldn’t stomach.
Elon Musk wants to become an Apple CEO.
Musk said in December that he wanted Apple to buy Tesla during the “darkest days of the Model 3 program,” when he was sleeping on Tesla’s factory floor as the company went through what he has called “manufacturing hell.” But, according to Musk, Cook never agreed to a meeting.
“Cook & I have never spoken or written to each other ever. There was a point where I requested to meet with Cook to talk about Apple buying Tesla,” Musk tweeted on Friday in response to the report. “There were no conditions of acquisition proposed whatsoever. He refused to meet.”
Reached for comment, a representative for Apple pointed to an interview with The New York Times during which Cook said he had never spoken to the Tesla CEO. In “Power Play,” however, Higgins notes that Cook and Musk have been photographed sitting next to each other and serving together on a business school advisory board in China. Higgins also notes that it’s hard to say whether Musk’s retelling of the phone call was accurate.
“It’s hard to imagine Musk was serious about wanting to be CEO of Apple,” he said.
Penguin Random House, the book’s publisher, declined to make Higgins available for comment. Since Musk’s hunt for an Apple acquisition, Tesla’s market cap has ballooned to $685 billion, making it the most valuable car company in the world. In addition, Apple is working on an electric car of its own, a project it started in 2014.
When asked for comment about the reported conversation, Apple pointed to Cook’s remarks during an interview with The New York Times’ Kara Swisher. He denied having ever spoken to Elon. “You know, I’ve never spoken to Elon, although I have great admiration and respect for the company he’s built,” Cook said.
Musk also claims that much of the book is false. “Higgins managed to make his book both false *and* boring,” Musk said in a tweet on Friday.
The Bottom Line
Musk had set the ambitious goal of delivering 100,000 Model 3s by the end of the quarter — more cars than the company sold in the entire prior year –, and one anecdote recounts how he chewed out a manager who told him it was not realistic.
On a nightly conference call, a manager with years of experience overseeing supply chains for the Army National Guard told him that the company was on pace to deliver 80,000 cars for the quarter and that his 100,000 goal was impossible.
Within days, Musk fired the manager, according to the book, telling other executives he was disappointed with her ‘fundamental inability to perform.’
In the end, Tesla’s deliveries reached 83,500 for the quarter, nearly exactly what the fired manager had predicted.
Musk has refuted many of the claims in the book, saying in a tweet: ‘Higgins managed to make his book both false *and* boring.’
On another daily conference call described in the book, Musk reportedly took Las Vegas sales manager Cayle Hunter to task even as he announced scheduling a record 1,700 people to pick up their Model 3s in the coming days.