Elon Musk said he is going to buy Manchester United. And then, just as quickly, he said he wasn’t.
It is the latest in a series of shocking tweets from Mr Musk. He has a habit of attracting attention with claims on Twitter about big purchases – and Manchester United seems just to be the latest organisation to be on the receiving end of it.
On the face of it, Mr Musk does not look to be buying the club. He clarified as much on Twitter, around five hours after he first threatened to buy the club.
“No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter,” he wrote. “I’m not buying any sports teams.”
But the cheeky reply that followed could be just as important. “Although, if it were any team, it would be Man U. They were my fav team as a kid,” he wrote.
Mr Musk almost certainly isn’t buying Manchester United. Just as he isn’t buying Coca-Cola so that he can put cocaine into it, as he joked similarly a few months ago.
But Mr Musk’s jokes do have a habit of coming true, and becoming far more significant than perhaps even he realised. And there is no more expensive example than Twitter.
Mr Musk had hinted that he could buy a social network before he finally took the plunge and bought up shares in the company, then made an offer for the whole thing. At the time, that seemed like a joke too, until he disclosed officially that he had bought a significant amount of stock.
Even throughout that time, Mr Musk did not seem entirely serious. His attempts to get out of the deal to buy Twitter suggest that he might not have made the purchase in full sincerity – though he has blamed the amount of bots on the platform, many experts have suggested that he might never have appreciated how much of a cost and undertaking the purchase would be.
Similarly, in 2019, Mr Musk posted that he had funding to take Tesla private, at $420 per share. The shares rapidly jumped, and it caused chaos in the financial markets.
Soon after, it became clear that Mr Musk was joking. The supposed offer was a reference to weed, and the funding does not appear to have been acquired.
But the joke became very expensive. He was forced to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines, and agree to a settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that among other things criticised the fact that Mr Musk was not careful enough about his tweets.
Some of Mr Musk’s jokes are less clear. It was never fully clear, for example, how sincere he was in his endorsement of the meme cryptocurrency dog coin, but that did not stop his posts from sending the price soaring.
As such, the fact Mr Musk was joking about his purchase of Manchester United does not mean that it is also insignificant. His jokes have proven very serious – and very expensive – in the past.