Just how involved should billionaire bosses be in their side projects? Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk is notorious for juggling several businesses, though they’re usually within his wheelhouse.
Photo Insert: Elon Musk's aborted bid for Twitter is a prime example of the dangers of overreach.
His aborted bid for Twitter, though, is a prime example of the dangers of overreach. The co-CEOs of $53 billion software firm Atlassian can offer pointers on how to do a better job of mission-creep, Antony Currie wrote for column on Reuters Breakingviews.
Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes are using their own cash to chase deals outside of their company’s core business. Skip Capital, the investment firm founded by Farquhar and his wife Kim Jackson, is leading a consortium to take private an Australian renewable energy outfit, Genex Power.
On Monday, the target rejected last week’s A$319 million ($223 million) offer, though it wants to keep negotiating. Cannon-Brookes, meanwhile, set his sights on the biggest carbon emitter Down Under, AGL Energy in February he teamed up with Brookfield Asset Management to bid around A$8 billion for it.
When that failed, he turned activist and defeated AGL’s breakup plan and is now involved in its search for a new CEO and chair.
On the face of it, Atlassian’s shareholders ought to be worried that both bosses have their eye on other matters. The stock has been hit hard by the broader technology rout, losing more than half its value since its October high.
But revenue is still growing at a 30% annual clip, and its valuation at 131 times the next 12 months’ estimated earnings, per Refinitiv data, is more than double that of Tesla.
Moreover, both are letting the experts mostly run the show. That’s especially true of Farquhar: Jackson, a former investment banker, effectively manages Skip Capital and is leading the bid for Genex. Cannon-Brookes was more heavily involved in the initial tilt at AGL and the campaign against its demerger.
But he also relies heavily on Jeremy Kwong-Law, who runs his investment vehicle, Grok Ventures. Such outsourcing might have helped Musk avoid the Twitter fiasco, from declining to conduct due diligence to stumping up much of his available wealth to finance the bid.
That contributed to Tesla’s stock falling as much as 45% after he first revealed his interest in the social media platform. Musk might not relish following the Atlassian bosses’ example, not least after his and Farquhar’s recent online spat over return-to-work policies. But it could save him a world of pain when he next goes off-road.