Musk Demands Bigger Stake in Tesla as Price for A.I. Work

Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, demanded that the company’s board give him shares worth more than $80 billion if it wants him to continue developing products based on artificial intelligence.

Mr. Musk said Monday on X, the social media site he owns, that he needed to own 25 percent of Tesla to avoid takeovers and have enough control of the company as it develops robots and other artificial intelligence technology.

The chief executive owns 13 percent of Tesla after selling a substantial portion of his stake to finance his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, which he renamed X. The social media site has struggled under his leadership and plunged in value. An additional 12 percent of Tesla would be worth $82 billion at the current share price, effectively recouping Mr. Musk’s investment in Twitter — which he has said he regrets — and then some.

“I am uncomfortable growing Tesla to be a leader in A.I. & robotics without having ~25% voting control,” Mr. Musk wrote on X. “Enough to be influential, but not so much that I can’t be overturned.”

He went on: “Unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla.” But he also said the board would take no action until a Delaware judge rules in a lawsuit brought by a Tesla shareholder challenging an earlier compensation plan that was instrumental in making Mr. Musk the richest person in the world.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The demand by Mr. Musk underlined the extent to which Tesla, which sold 1.8 million vehicles last year and is the world’s most valuable carmaker, is subject to his impulses.

Tesla’s success forced traditional carmakers to begin offering electric vehicles, which are essential in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. But Mr. Musk’s behavior and statements have weighed on the share price and gotten him into trouble with regulators.

Tesla shares fell when Mr. Musk sold some of his stake to buy Twitter. The shares also suffered after Mr. Musk said in 2018 that he had the money to take Tesla private and delist it from the stock exchange. Mr. Musk was unable to execute the plan.

The company’s stock has fallen about 14 percent so far this year but is up about 60 percent over the last 12 months.

Mr. Musk did not specify which products he might develop outside the company. He has already started a separate artificial intelligence business called X.AI, which last year released the Grok chatbot to selected users. Tesla is developing a robot called Optimus which, according to a video posted on X by Tesla on Monday, can fold a shirt. Tesla also uses artificial intelligence in its driver-assistance and self-driving systems.

On X, some of Mr. Musk’s fans applauded his statement, saying he earned the money. But others said it was his own fault his stake in the company has fallen. “They didn’t make you sell your shares,” one user wrote, adding, “why should the board do anything to rectify this for you?”

A stake of less than 15 percent of the company, Mr. Musk said, “makes a takeover by dubious interests too easy.”