Before Elon Musk was cutting deep at Twitter, inspiring legions of Silicon Valley bosses to take more unsparing approaches to running their companies, the CEO of Tesla swung the axe on the car company’s small public relations team.
It was late 2019, and Tesla had just steered through a rough patch of production hell, executive departures and self-inflicted crises. Dissolving the PR department was a risky move for a company that relied on media coverage as a primary driver of sales leads and thumbed its nose at traditional advertising.
It worked out fine for Tesla shareholders, at least for a time. The company opened its massive plant in Shanghai, launched the Model Y and meme stocked its way to a more than $1 trillion valuation. Its CEO became the richest man on the planet.
Then, Musk offered $44 billion to Twitter just as the Federal Reserve was beginning to pull away the punch bowl. Musk sold billions of dollars worth of Tesla stock to help fund the purchase, and the carmaker’s shares plunged 65% in 2022.