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Some people seem to thrive on turbulent times. Others prefer tranquility. Elon Musk is definitely in the first group. He seems to be happiest when things around him are in chaos — or at least, that's where he shines. If so, he must be ecstatic and glowing brightly at the moment. After tweeting last week that he might take Tesla private, the news media has been awash with guesses, wild ass guesses, and far-fetched speculation about who might be interested in walking Tesla and Elon down the aisle in a financial marriage that could have international implications.

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20 Suitors Who Might Marry Elon Musk & Tesla

Some people seem to thrive on turbulent times. Others prefer tranquility. Elon Musk is definitely in the first group. He seems to be happiest when things around him are in chaos — or at least, that’s where he shines. If so, he must be ecstatic and glowing brightly at the moment. After tweeting last week that he might take Tesla private, the news media has been awash with guesses, wild ass guesses, and far-fetched speculation about who might be interested in walking Tesla and Elon down the aisle in a financial marriage that could have international implications.

Update: The Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund is the source that has essentially committed to taking Tesla private. That’s not to say other on this list couldn’t join in.

Some people seem to thrive on turbulent times. Others prefer tranquility. Elon Musk is definitely in the first group. He seems to be happiest when things around him are in chaos — or at least, that’s where he shines. If so, he must be ecstatic and glowing brightly at the moment. After tweeting last week that he might take Tesla private, the news media has been awash with guesses, wild ass guesses, and far-fetched speculation about who might be interested in walking Tesla and Elon down the aisle in a financial marriage that could have international implications.

The Tesla board of directors is supposed to meet this week to hear what Elon has to say. Until news emerges from the boardroom, everything you read and hear is nothing more than rank speculation. That led those of us here in the CleanTechnica C Suite to draw up our own list of candidates. Feel free to add or subtract from it if you like.

1. The Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund, officially known as the Public Investment Fund (PIF). On the back of Financial Times news that came moments before Elon tweeted about taking Tesla private, TechCrunch reports that the PIF has already invested nearly $2 billion in Tesla — equivalent to about a 5% ownership stake in the company. The government of Saudi Arabia has plans to grow the fund to about $2 trillion in a few years, so finding the cash to buy a bigger stake in Tesla shouldn’t be a problem. The TechCrunch article cites two reports we’ve seen in the past few days. One is from Reuters saying that a PIF insider informed them that they weren’t involved in the discussions to go private, while a later report from Bloomberg indicated they were. Who’s telling the truth?

2. SoftBank. The enormous Japanese conglomerate certainly has the means, but maybe not the desire. Bloomberg notes that it invested $2.5 billion recently in Cruise, the autonomous driving division of General  Motors. It has also made significant investments in ride sharing companies Didi Chuxing, Uber, and Singapore’s Grab. It also says SoftBank was approached by Musk last year with the idea of helping the company go private but that it was not interested in that offer for a couple of reasons. The gist of it seemed to be that SoftBank wanted more control over Tesla than Musk was willing to cede.

3. Bill Gates. The Microsoft founder and multi-billionaire has the resources and a mission to save the world. Might those two factors make him a good fit with Elon’s ambitions?

4. Warren Buffett. Like Gates, Buffett has more money than Croesus and a strong head for business. Known as The Sage of Omaha, his business philosophy is to invest in strong companies, install professional managers, and get out of the way. Musk might find that sort of hands-off management style to his liking, but the two have clashed over solar energy policies in Nevada, where Buffett has significant interests in local utility companies and Musk is a fan of a more democratized, distributed approach. Also, the two seem to have differences of opinions on “moats” and Musk threw quite a bit of sugar-packed shade at Buffett recently when he joked about starting a candy company that would compete with Buffett’s. Oh yeah, also, Tesla might not be the kind of establish company Buffett likes to point money into, moats or not.

5. Larry Page/Sergey Brin/Alphabet. Like Buffett, Page and Brin are wealthy beyond all measure. Buying Tesla would be pocket change for them. Tesla could become yet another division of Google or the pair could buy Tesla themselves and operate it outside the Alphabet company umbrella. Also worth remembering is that Page appears to be one of Musk’s best friends, Brin got one of the first Model Xs, the Silicon Valley neighbors have invested in SpaceX, and Page once said that he’d rather leave all his money to Musk than to a charity when he dies since he trusts Musk would be able to do more good for the world with it.

6. Apple. This one makes so much sense that it couldn’t possible come true, could it? Apple has the cash — about a quarter trillion dollars, according to most sources. It has been struggling mightily to do something — anything — in the automotive field for 5 years or more. It needs a “next big thing” project. Why not just buy Tesla (or a chunk of Tesla if that’s all that’s on offer right now) and get everything in one nice, tidy package?

Tesla Model 3 vs Chevy Bolt7. General Motors. That would be ironic, huh? The company that bought the Los Angeles public transportation system almost 100 years ago and shut it down so that it could sell cars in southern California could buy Tesla and shut it down, thus eliminating the stigma of having a young upstart build more and better electric cars than it can possibly imagine. Ah, but no, Musk indicated that whoever was lined up to help with the financing would not gain majority control and the ship would be guided by the same captain (Musk) with no real change at all. So, the question is really whether GM would be inclined to put a chunk of cash into Tesla to hedge its bets, and if Musk would want that. Well, cash is cash.

8. Ford/Chrysler. Oh, please be serious.

9. BMW/Daimler/Volkswagen/Toyota. Daimler actually partnered with Tesla for a while and even invested in the company 8 years ago or so. But it seems it didn’t like doing business with Tesla and eventually sold its shares in the company. Volkswagen is the world’s largest automaker by volume, but its corporate culture hardly seems a good fit with the messianic mission Elon has embarked upon. BMW just seems to have a “deer in the headlights” attitude to electric cars, so maybe it would throw a Hail Mary for a shot at making it through the rEVolution with net progress instead of net loss. Like Mercedes, Toyota had a partnership with Tesla early on, using its technology to make the much loved RAV4 EV. But, like Mercedes, the two corporate cultures never seemed to mesh well together. Would Toyota consider jumping back in bed with Tesla now that it is hitting mass production at a scale Toyota can recognize?

10. A Chinese billionaire or 7. Musk has sent a number of glowing tweets about Chinese leadership, vision, and luck in recent months. He also somehow landed a deal to build the only foreign auto factory in the country that left outsiders (Tesla in this case) with 100% of ownership. The Chinese seem to like him, and he seems to like the Chinese. But do they have cash? Well, mostly picking from the top of a China rich list, here are 7 Chinese billionaires who might want to make a Silicon Valley auto play: Hui Ka YanMa HuatengJack MaWang WeiYang HuiyanRobin LiWilliam Ding.

Some of the names on that list are serious and some are silly. There may be any number of other mega-wealthy individuals in the world who would be willing to put up some serious cash to ride the Tesla Express. Chinese companies like Nio, Geely, BYD, Faraday Future, and others have little trouble attracting investors. Tencent, a Chinese giant with enough cash to fill a country, already has a 5% stake in the company. Tesla at least has a track record of delivering on its promises — eventually.

Those are some of our thoughts while we wait for the smoke to clear on the negotiations that have begun as the result of Elon’s disruptive tweet. One thing we’ve learned since the initial tweets is that Musk and the board are not looking for one or two major investors but rather a consortium of smaller investors, so that he can continue to exercise his nearly dictatorial control over the company.

There is one other factor to consider. Elon’s latest compensation plan does not get fully activated until the company attains a market capitalization of at least $650 billion. How does taking the company private affect that provision? No one talking publicly knows at this point, but it suggests that even if Elon takes the company private now, it may become a public corporation again at some point in the future if for no other reason than to satisfy that provision.

Those are our opinions/guesses. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

Update: This article has been updated to add a handful of specific billionaires from China. Also, Roger Atkins of Electric Vehicles Outlook sent along some highly logical possibilities:

 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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