Elon Musk — the billionaire tech entrepreneur — is stepping down as chairman of Tesla, his electric carmaking company, and will pay a $20 million fine

By Jason Duaine Hahn
October 01, 2018 03:06 PM

It all began with a tweet.

Elon Musk — the billionaire tech entrepreneur — is stepping down as chairman of Tesla, his electric carmaking company, and will pay a $20 million fine to settle charges brought against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to CNN.

The settlement, which Elon reportedly agreed to “without admitting or denying the allegations of the complaint,” allows him to remain CEO of the company, but keeps him from being re-elected as chairman for another three years. He will have to relinquish his role as chairman in 45 days of the resolution. The announcement comes just days after the SEC said they were suing Musk for misleading investors, an allegation stemming from a controversial tweet he sent out in August.

A seemingly unfazed Musk — who also serves as CEO of SpaceX, The Boring Company and Neuralink — sent out a late-night tweet of a Naughty By Nature music video (along with a winking emoji) just hours after the decision.

While the SEC investigation was centered on Musk’s tweet, the embattled tech founder has made headlines over the last few months for much more than his social media usage.

Here is a look back at Musk’s turbulent year.

Musk Calls Hero Diver a “Pedo Guy”

When 12 members of a youth soccer team who were trapped in a cave in Thailand in July, Musk worked with engineers from SpaceX to develop a miniature submarine made from parts of a rocket. Musk traveled to Thailand to personally deliver the sub to help out in the rescue, but officials decided not to use it in their efforts.

While the project may have been good-natured, British diver Vernon Unsworth, 63, who was on hand to help out with the rescue, called Musk’s ship a “PR stunt” and told reporters that he could “stick his submarine where it hurts.” The comments infuriated Musk, who called Unsworth a “pedo guy,” a comment he later apologized for — before doubling down on the unproven remarks just a few weeks later.

“You don’t think it’s strange he hasn’t sued me? He was offered free legal services,” Musk said of Unsworth, in response to a critic on Twitter in late August. “Did you investigate at all? I’m guessing [the] answer is no. Why?”

Joshua Lott/Getty

In September, Unsworth announced plans to move forward with a lawsuit against Musk.

Elon Musk
JB Lacroix/WireImage

Musk Sends Out the Ill-Fated “Funding Secured” Tweet

In the move that would eventually lead to his ouster as chairman, a position he has held since 2004, Musk sent out an early morning tweet on August 7 declaring he was taking Tesla private at $420 a share.

“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” Musk tweeted, short and simple.

The tweet immediately sent Tesla’s stock soaring, but almost two weeks after Musk’s tweet, Musk and the company clarified Tesla was indeed staying public.

At least five shareholders have filed lawsuits after they suffered losses in response to Musk’s tweet, according to CNN. On Sunday, the SEC announced their settlement with Musk, who is relinquishing his role as chairman and paying a $20 million fine. While it’s severe, the settlement is a much more favorable outcome for Musk than the SEC originally wanted — banning him from being the CEO of any publically traded company.

On Monday morning, just a day after the news of Musk’s departure as chairman, Tesla stock was up more than 16 percent.

An Emotional NY Times Interview

In mid-August, the New York Times published an interview with Musk, where he detailed “the most difficult and painful year of my career.”

Musk opened up about sleepless nights and busy schedules that have kept him from seeing friends and family for the better part of two decades. The newspaper noted that 47-year-old “alternated between laughter and tears” throughout their phone conversation. But while detailing his schedule, Musk admitted to using Ambien — a powerful and addictive sleep medication — in order to get rest at night.

“It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien,” he said. In their story, the Times reported that members of Tesla’s board have expressed concern about his use of the medication.

A week after the publication of the interview, Musk disputed the newspaper’s account.

“For the record, my voice cracked once during the NY Times article,” Musk said in a tweet. “That’s it. There were no tears.”

Elon Musk and Grimes
Neilson Barnard/Getty

Azealia Banks Claims Musk and Girlfriend Wanted Threesome

But during her stay, Banks claimed that she saw Musk use acid while dealing with business affairs, and felt that she was only invited so she could participate in a threesome with the couple.

In a response to PEOPLE, a spokesperson previous called Banks’ claims, “absolute nonsense.”

Smokes Weed With Joe Rogan

Even after all the controversy that had been developing, Musk appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, in September and took a hit of marijuana — live on camera. While marijuana is legal on California, where the show was taping, his appearance had an immediate negative effect on Tesla, as shares plunged the very next day.

A picture of Musk taking a hit marijuana quickly became a meme.