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Elon Musk says he sometimes can’t sleep without Ambien and ‘the worst is yet to come’

Published Aug 17th, 2018 8:39AM EDT

It’s been a little more than a week since Elon Musk sent that now infamous 9-word tweet about taking Tesla private, the tweet that landed him in a world of controversy, got him crossways with regulators and led to the possibility of costly lawsuits.

In the wake of those and some other recent high-profile gaffes he’s made in recent weeks, the Tesla chairman and CEO decided to sit for an hour-long interview with The New York Times. An interview that, among other things, reveals the once high-flying businessman has taken to calling this year “the most difficult and painful” of his career and that “the worst is yet to come.” There were times during the interview when Elon apparently got so choked up the interview needed to be paused, which might come as a surprise to anyone familiar with his brash presence on Twitter. At another point, he says he sometimes needs to take Ambien to be able to sleep and that he spent his 47th birthday in June stuck at work.

Two days after his birthday, he barely made it out to Catalonia for his brother Kimbal’s wedding, arriving only two hours before the ceremony, according to the Times report. “He said he spent the full 24 hours of his birthday at work,” the paper notes. ‘All night — no friends, nothing,’ he said, struggling to get the words out.” Elon also told the NYT reporters he’s been putting in 120-hour work weeks these days.

In the interview, Elon also seems to veer between emotional and flippant.

During a kind of chronology behind the taking Tesla private tweet, for example, he told the newspaper he was thinking that a 20 percent premium over the stock’s recent trading price would be a good price to cite in the tweet. That would have put it at $419, and Elon just decided to round it up to $420 — swearing to the reporters that the number (420) had nothing to do with weed.

“It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419,” he told the NYT. “But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There’s a reason for the word ‘stoned.’ You just sit there like a stone on weed.”

For everyone keeping score, Elon’s recent troubles — most of them of his own making — having included blasting a rescue cave diver as a “pedo guy” on Twitter; dismissing analyst questions during an earnings call as “boneheaded”; and the seemingly ill-thought out privatization tweet, to name a few. As we reported yesterday, Tesla’s legal team has determined that the fallout from Musk’s tweets could cost the company millions in legal fees and potentially billions in damages from investor lawsuits. Tesla also has reportedly hired three outside law firms to handle impending suits.

So, all that said – is the Tesla visionary, ah, ok? In some kind of precarious emotional state? The NYT recap of its interview notes that some board members are worried about the Ambien use, thinking that it just doesn’t work and “instead contributes to late-night Twitter sessions … Some board members are also aware that Mr. Musk has on occasion used recreational drugs, according to people familiar with the matter.”

The interview ends on what seems like a combative note. Elon says that, for time being, he’s not going anywhere or leaving his roles as Tesla’s chairman and its top executive.

“If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know,” is the Elon quote the interview ends with. “They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”

Andy Meek
Andy Meek Trending News Reporter

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.