Tesla CEO Elon Musk sold 7.9 million shares of Tesla in recent days, with the sale raising $6.9 billion.
The sales from Friday through Tuesday were disclosed late Tuesday in a series of filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. They mark the first sale of Tesla shares by Musk since April, when he sold 9.6 million shares, raising $8.5 billion at the time.
The April sales came shortly after Musk reached a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion. But a month ago he announced that he was not planning to forgo that deal, arguing that Twitter management had made physical about how many user accounts were bots and spam accounts, rather than accounts run by real people. Information not disclosed. Twitter (TWTR) quickly sued Musk to force him to go ahead with the deal on terms reached in April.
Musk’s filing did not disclose the reason for the stock sale. But when someone on Twitter asked him if he was selling Tesla shares, he answered “yes” and then pointed to the possibility of Twitter being forced to buy as the reason for this latest sale.
“In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to close *and* some equity partners don’t come through, it’s important to avoid an emergency sale of Tesla stock,” he said in his tweet.
But at the time he sold Tesla (TSLA) shares in April, he tweeted, “No plans for further TSLA sales after today.”
When someone else asked on Twitter on Tuesday whether he would repurchase Tesla shares if the Twitter deal doesn’t close, he replied “yes.”
Tesla shares have lost about 20% of their value so far this year, although they have returned 14% since reporting earnings in late July. Tesla’s stock gained nearly 2% in premarket trading. Twitter shares were up about 4%.
“It’s the last thing Tesla investors wanted to see,” said Daniel Ives, technical analyst at Wedbush Securities. “The biggest fear has been that Musk sells more stock, and that’s just what happened. It’s a near-term gut punch. There’s no explanation and it adds to the uncertainty.”
Musk previously sold Tesla shares primarily when he needed to raise cash to pay taxes on the exercise of options that were about to expire. The stock sale in April shortly after the Twitter deal was the first significant sale of Tesla shares by Musk for reasons other than the tax bill.
Musk received an average price of $869 per share for the shares he sold in recent days. This is well below the average price of $883 per share he sold at his Tesla sale in April, and down from the $1,046 average he received when selling 15.7 million shares late last year. That sale was to cover an expected record personal income tax bill, which he faced as a result of exercising the options set to expire.
Even with the latest stock sale, Musk still has 155 million shares of Tesla, and options to buy nearly 100 million more at a fraction of the current prices. The shares he owns, combined with the options he has to buy other shares, give him control of about 20% of Tesla’s outstanding shares. And the 7.9 million shares he has just sold represent less than 3% of the shares and options he holds.