Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk donated more than 5 million Tesla shares in November, days after the U.N. World Food Program outlined a plan to potentially use a $6 billion donation from the world’s richest man.
A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission made public Monday showed the donation, but not the recipient. The Tesla
shares were transferred in batches between Nov. 19 and Nov. 29, as Musk was also selling Tesla stock in preparation for a large tax bill.
On Halloween, Musk promised on Twitter
that he would sell Tesla stock and donate $6 billion to the U.N. World Food Program if it “can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger.” The executive director of the program, David Beasley, responded with a proposal on Monday, Nov. 15, and Musk began transferring shares to a charity the following Friday.
World Food Program spokesman Steve Taravella declined to disclose any information when contacted Monday. An email to Tesla, which disbanded its public-relations team in 2020, was not returned.
“To respect the privacy of our supporters, WFP’s practice has always been to leave any disclosure of possible contributions up to donors themselves,” Taravella wrote in an email to MarketWatch.
Musk did not respond publicly to the proposal from WFP’s Beasley, who had been tagging Musk in tweets that sought financial support from famous billionaires. Musk instead spent the day that Beasley posted it lashing out at U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders about taxes, after the Vermont independent and former Democratic presidential candidate tweeted: “We must demand that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share. Period.”
At the time, Musk was selling millions of shares in preparation for a large tax bill, while also exercising options for shares at much lower prices. Even with the gifted shares disclosed in Monday’s filing, Musk has about 2 million more shares — 172.6 million in total — than he owned when he began selling the stock.
Beasley has continued to tweet at Musk since the donation in apparent attempts to work together, including a Nov. 20 tweet asking him to “shock us all. Just do it.” He last tweeted at Musk on Dec. 16, according to a Twitter search.
It’s also possible the donation went to Musk’s own philanthropic organization, the Musk Foundation, which he established in 2002 and held a bit less than $1 billion as of the end of June 2020, according to a federal filing. Billionaires tend to divert stock to their own foundations before donating to charitable causes from those organizations.
For example, another electric-vehicle executive, Fisker Inc.
Chief Executive and Chairman Henrik Fisker, directed $4 million in stock to establish a foundation in the name of him and his wife and $1.9 million to a donor-advised fund. That move was also made public Monday afternoon in an SEC filing, though that EV company also issued a news release outlining where the money was going.
Musk in 2012 signed the Giving Pledge, a public promise to give away at least half of his wealth in his lifetime or when he dies. Compared with some of his wealthy peers, he has been relatively quiet about his philanthropy until last year. Musk announced a $100 million prize aimed at helping to solve climate change, and he made several other donations in 2021, including a $1 million contribution to a Texas food bank, Vox reported. Musk sometimes announces his philanthropic activities on Twitter, including a September message about a $50 million donation for children’s cancer research.
At Monday’s closing price of $875.76, the 5,044,000 Tesla shares would be worth roughly $4.42 billion; on Nov. 19, when Musk began the transactions, the total outlay would have been worth roughly $5.74 billion at the closing price.
MarketWatch staff writer Leslie Albrecht contributed to this report.