Think of it like a reverse Dear Abby, where "Abby" is called "Elon" and via a collection of companies, "she" makes semi-autonomous (and seemingly combustible) electric cars, literal rocket ships, mass market flamethrowers and in the not-so-distant future, candy.
It's a "reverse" Dear Abby because in this case, "Abby" isn't giving the advice, she's taking it - or actually, because our "Abby" is "Elon", probably not taking it.
A week ago today, Elon Musk accused RBC's Joseph Spak of asking "dry" questions on Tesla's Q1 call. Specifically, Spak asked about Model 3 reservations, a question he probably thought was relevant given that, you know, he's an analyst and he was on an earnings call with the company that makes the Model 3.
Elon didn't see it that way - not at all. In fact, Musk suggested that questions about demand for Tesla's products and worse, questions about capex, are not only so myopic as to be the exact opposite of relevant, but are in fact so "boring" and "dry" that if he were subjected to too many more of them, he might actually die.
And so, he cut Spak off as follows:
Joseph Spak – RBC Capital Markets LLC
Thank you. The first question is related to the Model 3 reservations, and I was just wondering if you gave us a gauge as maybe some of the impact that the news has had. Like, of the reservations that actually opened and made available to configure, can you let us know, like, what percentage have actually taken the step to configure?
Elon Reeve Musk – Tesla, Inc.
We’re going to go to YouTube. Sorry. These questions are so dry. They’re killing me.
Elon would go on to make the situation worse when, two days later, he took to Twitter to "explain" why Spak's question was "absurd" and also why Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi might be a "bonehead".
He then threatened to incinerate shorts with flamethrowers.
Less than 24 hours later (so, last Saturday), he was back on Twitter suggesting, among other things, that a short massacre more epic than the legendary VW squeeze was in the cards. He also threatened to transform himself into Willy Wonka in order to take Warren Buffet up on a candy moat challenge.
48 hours later, Willy Musk/Elon Wonka got $10 million worth of more high on his own supply.
Some people are characterizing all of the above as something akin to a psychological meltdown and if that's the case, Joseph Spak wants Elon to know that he's around if Wonka wants to talk.
In an open letter to Musk called "Dear Elon", Spak attempted to explain why it makes sense for analysts to ask questions about trivial matters like demand, and cash burn and other generally boring shit unrelated to space travel and/or portable incinerator units. Here are some fun excerpts:
Some of these questions can seem dry, boring or short-term focused, but hopefully you can appreciate that anyone looking to invest in Tesla's future must first be comfortable with its present.
I would be elated to host you for a webcast or call to talk extensively about all the amazing industry innovations you are driving and dispel any investor misconceptions you perceive.
Well first of all, Joseph, no. No, Musk probably doesn't "appreciate" the extent to which investors need to "first be comfortable with [the] present." You're talking about a guy who just launched a cherry-red Roaster he built into outer-fucking-space on a rocket he also built and who not five days ago likened himself to Roald Dahl's fictional candy baron.
Being a smart guy, Elon probably understands that he should appreciate why investors are concerned about "boring" financials, but that's something different from being willing to tolerate those investors' questions.
Additionally, inviting Elon Musk to participate in a special webcast event organized specifically for him to "talk extensively about all the amazing industry innovations he's driving" is like organizing a gala for Donald Trump to "talk extensively about all the tremendous things he's doing". It's possible it won't go horribly wrong or otherwise devolve into the comically absurd, but odds are everyone is going to come away feeling like they just spent an hour listening to standup comedy hour at the local insane asylum.
Spak also said the following in his "Dear Elon" letter:
Don't get me wrong. I love talking and thinking about the big picture and what Tesla can become. That's what makes Tesla such a fascinating company. [But] my responsibility is to be well informed when I discuss Tesla's stock with current and potential investors. A financial results call is an opportunity for Wall Street to re-calibrate our expectations.
Well, yes. But also no.
Yes, in the sense that Spak is exactly right about conference calls. We said as much two days after this boondoggle unfolded. To wit:
Ok, so for one thing, elaborating on press releases and newsletters and financial results is part of getting on the call with analysts – in fact, that’s what conference calls are for.
But no, in the sense that Elon Musk will apparently now decide what Tesla conference calls are for and until Wall Street cuts him off when he tries to raise capital, he's likely to continue to pull this shit.
Until then, it might be better for analysts to simply trick Musk by pretending to be retail investors "dialing" in via Youtube.
Tesla declined to comment for CNBC's story on Spak's note.
I didn't ask, but I'm reasonably sure Wonka would have told me to piss off too.