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By Alyssa Newcomb
Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said his company “probably would not” take money from Saudi Arabia right now amid the fallout of the attempted cover-up and murder of journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
“I think we probably would not,” Musk said during an interview on the Recode Decode podcast with Kara Swisher. “That sounds pretty bad. So that is not good,” he said of Khashoggi’s death.
In August, Musk announced a deal he said would be backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, according to Musk’s takeaway from the meeting. The hypothetical deal would have taken Tesla private at $420 per share, he said. His tweet included two key words that would soon get him into trouble: “Funding secured.”
Musk said he had been approached by the Saudis several times over the past two years about taking Tesla private. Earlier this year, the Saudis purchased nearly 5 percent of Tesla shares on the open market, according to Musk, giving them a multibillion-dollar stake in the electric car company.
After the murder of Khashoggi, key players in the international business community began to distance themselves from the Saudi government amid calls for accountability in the journalist’s death.
Billionaire Richard Branson suspended talks with the Saudi government about two tourism projects and an investment in Virgin’s space business. The Gates Foundation, helmed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, suspended future work with the Saudi Crown Prince’s charity. Dozens of other business leaders, including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and Ford chairman Bill Ford, dropped out of an annual investment conference hosted last month by the Saudi government.
Musk added in the interview that while he probably wouldn’t accept Saudi money right now, there are good people in the country.
“You don’t want to — if there’s one really bad thing that occurred — nail down the whole country,” Musk said.