Elon Musk: I'm neither a samurai nor a bastard

Billionaire disputes claims made in new biography


Elon Musk has come out fighting online to defend his reputation after quotes in a new book about the space and electric car enthusiast made him look like a bit of a git.

The claims come in a new book, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, written by El Reg alumnus Ashlee Vance.

The book claims that Musk told an investor, "My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku than fail." But Musk took to Twitter to deny the quote.

More damaging is a claim that Musk threw a fit when one of his SpaceX staff took a day off to attend the birth of his child. "That is no excuse. I am extremely disappointed. You need to figure out where your priorities are. We're changing the world and changing history, and you either commit or you don't," Musk is supposed to have said.

Besides those specific accusations, however, Musk doesn't seem to have much of a problem with the new book, which portrays him as a gifted and fanatically hard working entrepreneur. When one staff member at Tesla commented on the long hours they work, Vance recounts, Musk replied that everyone would see a lot more of their families if the firm went bankrupt.

Musk certainly expects a lot of his staff, as he has noted in the past. He has said that he has a "special forces philosophy" to staff – those who don’t make the grade are perfectly good for other companies to hire, but just not up to his exacting standards.

“We’ve grown [expletive] soft.” Musk told Vance, after the writer noted that hundreds of Tesla staff were working on a Saturday.

But Musk isn’t alone in this opinion. Bill Gates once said that when he was investigating rival technology companies, he would drive around their offices at the weekend to see how many people were working. If the parking lots were empty, he'd assume the firm's staffers weren't that committed to their jobs. ®

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