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Elon Musk, GameStop and the C.E.O. as Internet Troll

Just weeks before Elon Musk became the richest person in the world thanks to the soaring value of Tesla shares, the eccentric billionaire reflected on the fickle nature of the public markets.

“The stock market is a strange thing,” Mr. Musk said in an interview with Business Insider in December. “It’s like having a manic depressive who’s constantly telling you how much your company’s worth. And sometimes they have a good day, and sometimes they have a bad day, but the company is basically the same. The public markets are crazy.”

A month later, Mr. Musk has inserted himself into one of the most confounding stock market dramas in years — the multibillion-dollar battle over GameStop being waged between elite hedge funds and retail investors communicating on Reddit.

On Tuesday, as GameStop shares skyrocketed, Mr. Musk weighed in with a one-word tweet — “Gamestonk!!” — and a link to the Reddit forum where much of the discussion has unfolded. Mr. Musk’s message was seen as an endorsement of sorts from one of the most powerful figures on the web, and in the days that followed, investors bid up the price of GameStop to new highs.

It is a spectacle tailor-made for Mr. Musk’s live-wire online persona. He is at once a capitalist hero, a glossy magazine celebrity and a bomb-throwing troll with 44 million Twitter followers, inhabiting his role as the chief executive of two major companies with a bravado that most corporate leaders wouldn’t dream of. The richest man in the world is also, somehow, a hero to the anti-establishment crowd, riling up the digital masses one tweet at a time.

GameStop vs. Wall Street

Let Us Help You Understand

    • Shares in GameStop, the video game retailer, have soared because amateur investors, starting on Reddit, have been bet heavily on shares of the company.
    • The wave gained momentum in response to large hedge funds short selling GameStop stock — basically they were betting against the company’s success.
    • The sudden demand has driven up the share price from less than $20 in December to nearly $200 on Thursday. On paper, anyway.
    • It’s not just GameStop. Amateur investors have backed other companies that many big investors had shunned, such as AMC and BlackBerry.
    • This bubble around GameStop may force big investors to raise money to cover their losses, or dump shares of other companies.

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