“Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock. Do you support this?”
That was a late Saturday tweet from the electric-car maker’s TSLA, -0.64% chief executive officer Elon Musk, whose attached poll had gathered more than 2.6 million votes by early Sunday. Due to expire later in the afternoon, eastern Time, the votes so far were 56% for selling, and 46% against.
Musk went on to say that he would “abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes,” and that he doesn’t “take a cash salary or bonus from anywhere. I only have stock, thus the only way for me to pay taxes personally is to sell stock.”
Of the thousands that responded to Musk’s tweet, many expressed concern that such a sale would tank the stock, hurting average investors who have benefited anew from a recent record run for shares,
Tesla shot to a new high last week of $1,229.91 a share, and surged 43% in October. The company’s market capitalization climbing past $1 trillion after Hertz Global HTZ, announced plans on Oct. 25 to order 100,000 Tesla vehicles. Days later Musk questioned the rally seen for the stock as he said no deal with Hertz had been signed yet.
Shares of Tesla finished up 9% last week, just off that record high at $1,222.09, and are up 73% so far this year. Musk himself holds about a 17% stake in Tesla that’s worth more than $200 billion. A 10% chunk, if he decided to sell, would be worth more than $20 billion, according to FactSet.
Musk himself has said Tesla’s share price may be too high, as he repeated in a September interview with Kara Swisher for the New York Times. “But if you also ask me, do I think Tesla will be worth more than this in five years? I think the answer is, yes,” he told her.
For now, Musk may have created some built-in tension for the stock market’s new week, though stock futures ES00, -0.10% YM00, -0.12% NQ00, -0.04% were largely unchanged. All three major U.S. stock benchmarks SPX, +0.37% DJIA, +0.56% COMP, +0.20% rose to fresh peaks Friday, driven by strong jobs data and the view the Federal Reserve is in no rush to raise interest rates.
In late October, Musk slammed a proposed new annual tax on billionaires’ unrealized capital gains, saying he agreed with the view that this type of tax eventually would hit others as well. “Eventually, they run out of other people’s money and then they come for you,” he said, in response to another comment on Twitter.
Musk is by far the world’s richest billionaire, with a net worth of $314 billion, according to Forbes real-time billionaire’s list. Trailing by around $100 billion is Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, who is worth $203 billion.