The head of Morgan Stanley (MS) has been heaping some very heavy praise on Elon Musk -- at the Reuters Next forum in New York on Dec. 1, chief executive James Gorman called the Tesla (TSLA) founder who recently acquired Twitter (TWTR) for $44 billion "an extraordinary executive."
"Who would not want to do business with a person who has that kind of capability?" Gorman said as first reported by Bloomberg, referring to Musk's leadership of Tesla and SpaceX. "Shame on an institution who'd walk away from that."
Gorman, who has been leading the investment firm since 2012, encouraged investors not to give up on Twitter after Musk's mass firings and frequent online spats led to an exodus of both high-profile users and advertisers.
"I wouldn't bet against Elon Musk," Gorman said while bringing up a past visit to the Tesla factory and comparing Musk to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Here's Who is Betting For And Against Musk
Even before Gorman's comments, the phrasing "betting against Elon Musk" has become a talking point among those against Musk's profit-driven and "hardcore" leadership style and those criticizing the crackdown.
But the debate also boils down to whether unconventional leadership that led Tesla and SpaceX to their success and helped Musk skyrocket his wealth will work for a social media platform that has been around for years and relies on advertisers as well as content from users.
"I hear lots of people still say 'I wouldn't bet against Elon Musk,'" Gergely Orosz, a software engineer who worked at JP Morgan, Uber (UBER), Microsoft (MSFT,) and Skype, wrote on Twitter. "I hadn't heard nearly as many people say 'I wouldn’t bet against Satya Nadella [the CEO of Microsoft].' Also, striking the difference in leadership style and treating of people -- employees, customers -- between the two."
Orosz's mention of the Microsoft CEO refers to Nadella's vision of leader 'humility' and listening to employee input -- a leadership that's also seen as highly unconventional by some.
Gorman is clearly a supporter of the former rather than the latter given that he has repeatedly pushed for a quicker return to the office amid the pandemic and said that working from home equated to being in "jobland" (compared to the office's "careerland.")
While Musk has been known to outdo expectations in the face of naysayers, some predict that growing outrage over Musk's treatment of employees and veering toward the political right could end up being his downfall.
Gorman: Twitter's Business Potential Is 'Very Real'
Tesla stock is down more than 15% since Musk took over Twitter and started spatting with anyone who criticized his approach to staff, as well as the decision to reinstate banned users like former president Donald Trump.
It is also not insignificant that Morgan Stanley led the syndicate of banks that provided Musk with the $13 billion needed to complete the Twitter purchase. As Bloomberg reported, these banks "that jumped at the chance to help an important client now face losses running into several hundred million dollars on the unsold debt sitting on their balance sheets."
As such, Gorman is likely to stand behind Musk no matter how things go. At the conference, he repeatedly named Twitter "a great company."
"Institutions like ours are not stupid," he said at the conference. "We don't get behind that kind of business and that kind of opportunity unless it's real -- and it's very real."
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