Electric carmaker Elon Musk at a news conference in Chicago...

Electric carmaker Elon Musk at a news conference in Chicago on June 14. Credit: AP/Kiichiro Sato

Elon Musk, the impulsive leader of Tesla Inc., admitted to The New York Times that work is rattling his nerves in what he described as the most "difficult and painful year of my career."

The newspaper reported that during an hourlong telephone interview on Thursday, Musk alternated between laughter and tears, acknowledging that he works as many as 120 hours a week and sometimes takes Ambien to get to sleep.

Musk conceded that exhaustion was affecting his personal health and that friends have come by "who are really concerned."

Yet he told the newspaper that he has no plans to give up his dual role as Tesla's chairman and CEO.

"If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now," he told the paper.

The interview puts board members in a difficult position because Musk, who entered Tesla as a major investor and built the company into a force that has changed the perception of electric cars, is the company's public identity.

But Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan business and law professor, said Tesla's board has a fiduciary duty to shareholders to take action.

"If the board does not get him out of this slot at a minimum on a leave of absence basis, I think the board is going to be seen by a lot of people who love the company as being derelict in their duties," Gordon said Friday. "You can love the company, you can love Musk and hate having him be the CEO at this point."

Shares of Tesla slumped 9 percent Friday to close at $305.50.

In the interview, Musk stood by his Aug. 7 tweet saying he had secured funding to take Tesla private in a deal that could be worth more than $20 billion. But he told the newspaper that he wrote the tweet inside a Tesla Model S while he was driving to the airport and that no one else reviewed it.

Asked if he regretted it, he said, "Why would I?"

Musk, 47, has a reputation for being an eccentric visionary. But his out-of-the-blue go-private announcement raised a huge ruckus and pushed Tesla's shares up 11 percent in a day, raising the company's value by $6 billion. They've fallen back since then.

There are multiple reports that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the disclosure.

Musk told the newspaper that sometimes he did not leave the Tesla factory for three or four days straight and that he had not taken off more than a week at a time since he was sick with malaria in 2001.

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