Elon Musk May Have Almost Sold Tesla To Apple, But Tim Cook Didn't Want It

The chaos Elon Musk is currently facing post-Twitter acquisition is not the first patch of rough road the world's richest person has encountered during his business career. Some might say it follows him around like Jack Frost nipping at one's nose. It's not even the first time chaos has reigned during his Tesla tenure.

In 2004, Musk took $6.3 million of the $180 million he made from the sale of PayPal (to eBay) and dropped it into the electric vehicle company. Contrary to popular belief, Musk was not the sole or even original founder of Tesla, but one of five that included the two OG masterminds, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning.

Drama over who would become CEO unfolded like a scintillating Latin America telenovela, one that ran for a few years as the company sped towards a September 2007 production start date for the Roadster. Designs were faulty, prototypes failed, production costs skyrocketed, allegations were made, and co-founders filed internal lawsuits against each other. Musk eventually became CEO in 2008 (via CNBC) after investing another $20 million into Tesla (via Wired).

In 2013 Musk revealed that in 2008 both SpaceX and Tesla were on the verge of bankruptcy — at the same time. That's a mighty daunting prospect to face when you're the founder of one (SpaceX) and CEO of the other (Tesla). While the Roadster launched to rave reviews, the hardships continued and eventually led Musk to an electrifying business decision to try and take a bite out of Apple.

Musk and Cook have a complicated relationship

In 2020, Musk Tweeted that during a particularly hellish phase (2017 into 2018) of its first mass-market EV (the Model 3), he contacted Apple's CEO Tim Cook to see if the tech giant had any interest in buying Tesla. Why? According to an Axios interview, Musk claimed the EV maker was "bleeding money like crazy" and was literally "single-digit weeks" from going under.

The company needed immediate help, or Tesla's death was imminent. The offer on the table to purchase Tesla was for "1/10" of the company's value at the time. But Cook refused to take the meeting. According to Forbes, Cook's decision cost Apple $640 billion. Tesla avoided the worst-case scenario and weathered the proverbial storm, but like all good telenovelas ... a good subplot never actually dies.

In the summer of 2021, the book "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century" was released, written by Wall Street Journal reporter Tim Higgins. The author claims that not only did a phone call between the two CEO's happen, but that Musk demanded a sale could only occur if he remained CEO, subsequently removing Cook from his position. Cook is said to have screamed an expletive and hung up the phone. You can't make this stuff up. Or maybe you can because both parties have publicly stated they never spoke, met, or even wrote to each other about the subject.

Oh, but this is the soap opera that never dies! Cook and Musk recently got into a social media feud after Musk claimed Apple had removed most of its advertising from Twitter and threatened to pull it from its App Store. Cook and Musk met to hash it out, but will the truce hold? Stay tuned.