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Musk sells $1.1 billion Tesla shares to pay taxes

November 11, 2021

The entrepreneur sold about 900,000 shares of his company Tesla after asking Twitter followers whether he should sell 10% of his stocks. But documents showed the sale was put in motion much before the poll.

Elon Musk at the Tesla Gigafactory.
Musk still owns 170 million of Tesla shares after the transactionsImage: Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture alliance

Elon Musk on Wednesday sold about 900,000 shares of the electric carmaker's stock, netting over $1.1 billion (€960 million), to pay tax obligations for stock options. Earlier in the week, his trust sold nearly 3.6 million shares in Tesla, worth around $4 billion, 

He conducted a poll on Twitter asking users whether he should sell 10% of his stocks, saying he would follow the results of the poll. Following the survey, Tesla's share price plunged Monday, meaning the 50-year-old Musk sold his stock at a lower price than if he had sold it before his tweet, losing tens of millions of dollars in unrealized profit.

Musk still owns 170 million Tesla shares after the transactions. 

Sale initiated before poll

Documents filed on Wednesday showed the sale was put into motion on September 14, suggesting it was not dependent on the survey's outcome.

The sale, disclosed in two regulatory filings, will cover tax obligations for stock options granted to Musk in September. 

"I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock," said Musk.

Tesla does not pay him a cash salary. According to Forbes magazine, Musk is the world's wealthiest man, with a net worth of around $282 billion, most of it in Tesla stock. 

He exercised options to buy just over 2.1 million shares for $6.24 each. The company's stock closed Wednesday at $1,067.95 per share. Musk has more than 20 million additional stock options that are due to expire in August.

The Twitter poll ended with 58% of more than 3.5 million votes calling for him to sell the shares. Musk's tweet was based on a proposal by some US Democrats pushing billionaires to pay taxes when the price of the stocks goes up, even if they don't sell their shares.

tg/sms (AP, Reuters)