MutualFundWire.com: Musk and Baron Talk Twitter, Zombies, and More
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Friday, November 04, 2022

Musk and Baron Talk Twitter, Zombies, and More


It seems that Baron Capital [profile], or perhaps founder Ron Baron himself, participated in Elon Musk's recent LBO of Twitter.

Elon Musk
On stage at the 2022 Baron Investment Conference
That's one takeaway from Musk's chat with Baron onstage this morning at the 29th annual Baron Investment Conference (held again at Lincoln Center in New York City, for the first time since before the pandemic). Musk took the stage as a surprise CEO guest for a conversation that touched on several of his companies, including and Tesla and SpaceX (as well as Twitter). (Baron was one of the early Tesla investors.)

More than 4,000 Baron Funds shareholders are attending the event, which also features discussions from a host of Baron PMs and an afternoon musical performance by surprise guest Bruno Mars. Lunchtime entertainment at the conference included comedian John Mulaney, country singer Miranda Lambert, and cast members from MJ: the Musical.

On Twitter, Musk says that trying to get out of the deal reminded him of a scene in the Godfather. He touches on the new plan to make users pay $8 month to be verified. He says Twitter will piggyback off of Apple's payment system, as well as credit cards.

"This is to make crime not pay," Musk says. "Right now the cost of a bot is less than a penny. It will be too expensive to have 100,000 accounts because it will cost $800,000."

"It will be like Google search. The results on page one are so good, so you never go to page eight," Musk adds, joking that "the best place to hide a dead body [is] the second page of Google search results."

Looking ahead, Musk says his vision is for people to get paid for creating content for Twitter, starting with allowing much longer videos (as an alternative to YouTube).

Regarding layoffs at Twitter, Musk said that companies dependent on advertising are having a hard time.

"Twitter is more vulnerable, as most of its advertisers are large brands as opposed to direct response," Musk says, adding that there's an issue with activist groups pressuring advertisers. "This does not seem right because we have made no change to operations at all. This is an attack on the First Amendment."

Musk added that he thinks he'll have a team lined up to manage Twitter within the next two to three weeks and that Twitter will be much easier to manage than SpaceX or Tesla.

On the subject of Tesla, Baron asks Musk how he's "making cars cheaper."

"Why is no other car company doing what you are?" Baron asks.

Musk says that first you automate, then accelerate and simplify, then delete.

"We deleted so many parts from the car that did nothing," Musk says.

Musk also shares memories from Tesla's earlier days.

"I slept on the factory floor. When I woke up I smelled like metal dust," Musk says. "When the shift changed, they could see me."

"That is important. They knew I was there," Musk adds. "That made a huge difference, and they gave it their all."

(Later, after Musk left the conference, Baron says that Musk says he's sleeping on the floor of the Twitter headquarters for the next two or three weeks. It's unclear whether Baron, or Musk, was joking.)

Looking ahead, Musk says that the Tesla team is working on solar-charging at their supercharger stations. He adds that they'll continue to function "even in a zombie apocalypse."

"That may be coming," Musk says. "You never know."

"It looks like we will need to get into the mining and refining business," Musk adds.

When talking about SpaceX, Baron and Musk reflect on humanity's short time on earth and the importance of space travel.

"Consciousness is a small candle in a vast darkness that can easily go out," Musk says.

Later in the day, Baron mentioned that last year was the first year that his firm ever had fewer people at the end of the year than at the start (170, vs 167 or so), but it wasn't because of cuts. They had eight or nine openings at the time, Baron said, but found that requiring people to come back in the office (they went back when the Yankees came back) impeded recruiting.

"I had a rebellion on my hands," Baron says.

They've moved past that now, Baron says, and the firm is back up and beyond the prior figure, with about 185 people on the team now. The 40-year-old fund firm offers 19 no-load mutual funds.

Sean Hanna also contributed to this story.


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