Mars, birth rates, but no Twitter: Elon Musk captivates Sun Valley moguls

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SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles, California, US, June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/

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July 9 (Reuters) – Elon Musk avoided discussing the collapsed Twitter deal, only repeating allegations of fake account problems on the social media platform as he addressed an audience of moguls on Saturday, two people attending the conference told Reuters.

In a lengthy interview Saturday, Musk spent most of his time talking about Mars, praising the benefits of increasing birth rates on Earth, one of the sources said. Musk, Chief Executive of Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and rocket company Space X, has said he wants to establish a civilization on Mars.

Musk said earlier this week that he will do his best to help what he called “the underpopulation crisis,” following a media report that said he was having twins with a top executive at his brain-chip start-up Neuralink. read more

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The billionaire entrepreneur took the stage at the Allen & Co Sun Valley Conference, an annual gathering of media and technology executives in Idaho, less than 24 hours after announcing that he was ending his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter Inc. (TWTR.N)

The interview was conducted by Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research firm founded by Musk and several others.

Musk’s arrival at the Allen & Co Sun Valley conference this week shocked the off-record event, where headline-making is usually done outside the prying eyes of the media.

“It just seems like an absolute mess,” said a senior media executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity prior to the interview. “The guy makes his own rules…I wouldn’t like to be on Twitter, where you have to take this guy seriously.”

Sun Valley is quintessentially an athleisure version of the Met Gala, with photographers capturing the arrivals of fleece-covered media moguls and reporters recording power lunches at the on-site Konditorei cafe.

A Hollywood power broker Friday expressed hope that the Musk interview would enliven the sedate, cerebral atmosphere of the conference this year.

Hours later, Musk’s lawyers delivered an eight-page letter to Twitter, saying he planned to call off the deal to take over the social network. The document, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, alleged that in the past two months, Twitter has failed to respond to repeated requests for information, or obtain its consent before taking actions that would affect its business, such as firing two key executives. read more

Until then, talks in media circles had focused on Wall Street’s reappraisal of streaming activity in the wake of the (NFLX.O) lose subscriber. A director of digital media said Hollywood, which is typically isolated from recessions, is suddenly concerned about how a deteriorating economy will affect their billion-dollar investment in streaming services.

“For the first time, people are aware that the economy is impacting the entertainment industry as inflation impacts customer churn,” the digital media director said, referring to subscribers leaving a service. “People are now saying, ‘Wow, will people really pay for three of these things?’

Following Musk’s announcement, a chief executive noted the elephant in the room — Saturday’s comments may well be uncomfortable for two conference attendees: Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal.

One of Musk’s last public messages to Agrawal came in the form of a poo emoji tweet in response to the Twitter CEO’s defense of how the company considers spambots. read more

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Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; adaptation by Kenneth Li and Franklin Paul

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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