Tech | August 2, 2021 6:00 am

The Demand That Sank a Proposed $60 Billion Tesla-Apple Merger

One can only imagine what might have been

Tesla Supercharger
Charger with Tesla logo at a Supercharger rapid battery charging station for the electric vehicle company Tesla Motors.
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

In the last decade, Tesla has done what a number of other automobile manufacturers could not: establish a place for itself in the American driving scene. A look at Tesla’s growth year over year helps illustrate the company’s relative success to date. But it wasn’t always like this; in fact, Tesla nearly became part of another much-vaunted technology company at a critical point in its history.

That leads to one of the more eye-catching bits to be found in Wall Street Journal technology reporter Tim Higgins’s forthcoming book Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century. As Russ Mitchell notes in his review of the book for the Los Angeles Times, Higgins reports that Apple offered to buy Tesla in 2016. The cost of the deal? $60 billion.

According to the book, Elon Musk was in favor of it, but he put one condition on the deal: that he be made CEO of Apple. Apple’s Tim Cook didn’t think too much of Musk’s idea — to put it mildly — and, according to Higgins’s account, let loose with an expletive and then hung up.

Writing at Jalopnik, Raphael Orlove offered some welcome commentary on the account. Orlove pointed out that the report of Apple’s offer to Tesla came secondhand, but that it seems very much in keeping with Musk’s public persona.

That said, Musk himself has denied that he made that demand — or that he’d even spoken to Cook — via Twitter.

Which isn’t to say that Musk’s account of events doesn’t have its own hook. According to Musk, Cook turned down a meeting to discuss a possible acquisition of Tesla — something which would have likely made Apple a great deal of money in the years that followed. Whether fact or legend, it’s fascinating to imagine what might have been.