Elon Musk sells over 2M shares of Tesla after Twitter poll

The Tesla CEO said he'd abide by the results of a recent poll that asked whether he should sell 10% of his stock in the company to pay taxes.

Steven Musil
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Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk sold more than 2 million shares in his company this week.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk sold more than 2 million shares of stock in his electric-car maker this week after asking his Twitter followers whether he should sell stock in order to pay his taxes. Nearly 58% of the more than 3.5 million people who took part in the poll voted that he should sell 10% of his stock in the company.

Musk exercised more than 2.15 million stock options on Monday at a price of $6.24, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. 

"The shares of common stock were sold solely to satisfy the reporting person's tax withholding obligations related to the exercise of stock options to purchase 2,154,572 shares," the filing shows. The stock sales ranged in price from $1,135.05 to $1,196.23. Tesla stock closed Wednesday at $1067.95.

Musk said Saturday that he'd honor the results of the poll, which came amid continuing discussions of a "billionaire's tax."

"Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock," Musk tweeted, "Do you support this?" Musk, one of the world's richest people, included a Yes or No poll in the tweet, saying, "I will abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes."

In June, investigative site ProPublica got hold of a cache of IRS documents and reported that Musk and other moguls, by structuring their pay to avoid income, built their wealth into the high billions while paying almost nothing in federal taxes. The activity wasn't against the law, ProPublica said, but the tax records reveal how the uber-wealthy minimize taxes, sometimes by taking out loans using their stock holdings as collateral. By comparison, wage earners live primarily off their paychecks, which are taxed as income.