SAN FRANCISCO -- Even before the verdict came in Friday, Elon Musk had earned the sobriquet Teflon Man on Twitter.
Once a jury decided that he hadn’t defamed a British man by calling him a “pedo guy” in a post on the social media platform -- Musk’s favorite -- his reputation as a controversy-stirring billionaire who escapes relatively unscathed from the firestorms he creates for himself seemed to be sealed.
Dan Ives, a Wedbush Securities analyst who covers Musk's EV maker Tesla Inc., repeated it: “Right now he’s the Teflon man.” But, Ives added, “it’s a cautionary tale and hopefully situations like this don’t repeat.”
There have been more than a few of those already for Musk, who is CEO of Tesla and chairman and CEO of SpaceX. His boards have tolerated them, his fans love him all the more for his antics and investors don’t seem to mind. Tesla shares have rallied more than 60 percent in the past six months.
The defamation lawsuit “was the last formal distraction from when Elon Musk went off the Twitter rails in 2018,” said Gene Munster of Loup Ventures.
Even with the positive outcome for Musk, it remains a highly unusual case for a CEO.
In July 2018, as the world was riveted by efforts to save a Thai youth soccer team stuck in a flooded cave, Musk’s engineers tried to help by making a mini submarine out of rocket parts. Vernon Unsworth, an expert caver instrumental in the rescue, told CNN that the mini-sub was little more than a publicity stunt. Musk fired off the “pedo guy” tweet -- and hired a private investigator to dig into Unsworth’s personal life and leak information to British tabloids.