Elon Reeve Musk FRS (/ˈlɒn/ EE-lon; born June 28, 1971) is a business magnate and investor. He is the founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer at SpaceX; angel investor, CEO, and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc.; founder of The Boring Company; and co-founder of Neuralink and OpenAI. With an estimated net worth of around US$203 billion as of June 2022,[4] Musk is the wealthiest person in the world according to both the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and Forbes' real-time billionaires list.[5][6]

Elon Musk

Elon Musk Royal Society (crop2).jpg
Musk in 2018
Born
Elon Reeve Musk

(1971-06-28) June 28, 1971 (age 51)
Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
CitizenshipUnited States[1]
Education
Title
Spouse(s)
(m. 2000; div. 2008)
(m. 2010; div. 2012)
(m. 2013; div. 2016)
Partner(s)Grimes (2018–2022)[2]
Children8[a]
Parents
Relatives
FamilyMusk family
AwardsList of honors and awards
Signature
Elon Musk Signature.svg

Musk was born to White South African parents in Pretoria, where he grew up. He briefly attended the University of Pretoria before moving to Canada at age 17, acquiring citizenship through his Canadian-born mother. Two years later, he matriculated at Queen's University and transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he received bachelor's degrees in Economics and Physics. He moved to California in 1995 to attend Stanford University but decided instead to pursue a business career, co-founding the web software company Zip2 with his brother Kimbal. The startup was acquired by Compaq for $307 million in 1999. The same year, Musk co-founded online bank X.com, which merged with Confinity in 2000 to form PayPal. The company was bought by eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

In 2002, Musk founded SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company, of which he serves as CEO and Chief Engineer. In 2004, he was an early investor in electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors, Inc. (now Tesla, Inc.). He became its chairman and product architect, eventually assuming the position of CEO in 2008. In 2006, he helped create SolarCity, a solar energy company that was later acquired by Tesla and became Tesla Energy. In 2015, he co-founded OpenAI, a nonprofit research company promoting friendly artificial intelligence (AI). In 2016, he co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology company focused on developing brain–computer interfaces, and founded The Boring Company, a tunnel construction company. He agreed to purchase the major American social networking service Twitter in 2022 for $44 billion. Musk has proposed the Hyperloop, a high-speed vactrain transportation system, and is the president of the Musk Foundation, an organization which donates to scientific research and education.

Musk has been criticized for making unscientific and controversial statements, such as spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, he was sued by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for falsely tweeting that he had secured funding for a private takeover of Tesla; he settled with the SEC but did not admit guilt, and he temporarily stepped down from his Tesla chairmanship. In 2019, he won a defamation case brought against him by a British caver who had advised in the Tham Luang cave rescue.

Early life

Childhood and family

Elon Reeve Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, a segregated suburb of apartheid South Africa.[7][8] His mother is Maye Musk (née Haldeman), a model and dietitian born in Saskatchewan, Canada, but raised in South Africa.[9][10][11] His father is Errol Musk, a White South African electromechanical engineer, pilot, sailor, consultant, and property developer who was a half-owner of a Zambian emerald mine near Lake Tanganyika.[12][13] Musk has a younger brother, Kimbal (born 1972), and a younger sister, Tosca (born 1974).[11][14] His maternal grandfather, Joshua Haldeman, was an adventurous American-born Canadian who took his family on record-breaking journeys in a single-engine Bellanca airplane to Africa and Australia.[15][16][17] Musk has British and Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry.[18][19]

Musk's family was wealthy during his youth. His father was elected to the Pretoria City Council as a representative of the anti-apartheid Progressive Party, with the Musk children reportedly sharing their father's dislike of apartheid.[7][b] After his parents divorced in 1980, Musk mostly lived with his father,[18] a choice he made two years after the divorce and subsequently regretted.[20] Musk has become estranged from his father.[20] He has a paternal half-sister and a half-brother.[15][21]

As a child, Musk's adenoids were removed because doctors suspected he was deaf, but his mother later decided that he was just thinking "in another world".[22] Aged 10, Musk developed an interest in computing and video games and acquired a Commodore VIC-20.[23] He learned computer programming using a manual and, at age 12, sold the code of a BASIC-based video game he created called Blastar to PC and Office Technology magazine for approximately $500.[24][25] An awkward and introverted child,[26] Musk was bullied throughout childhood and was once hospitalized after a group of boys threw him down a flight of stairs.[27] He attended Waterkloof House Preparatory School and Bryanston High School before graduating from Pretoria Boys High School.[28]

Education

 
Musk graduated from Pretoria Boys High School in South Africa.

Aware it would be easier to enter the United States from Canada,[29] Musk applied for a Canadian passport by jus sanguinis, through his Canadian-born mother.[30][31] While awaiting the documentation, he attended the University of Pretoria for five months; this allowed him to avoid mandatory service in the South African military.[32] Musk arrived in Canada in June 1989 and lived with a second cousin in Saskatchewan for a year,[33] working odd jobs at a farm and lumber-mill.[34] In 1990, he entered Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.[35][36] Two years later, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics and a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the Wharton School.[37][38][39]

In 1994, Musk held two internships in Silicon Valley during the summer: at energy storage startup Pinnacle Research Institute, which investigated electrolytic ultracapacitors for energy storage, and at the Palo Alto-based startup Rocket Science Games.[40] In 1995, he was accepted to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in materials science at Stanford University in California.[41] Musk tried to get a job at Netscape but never received a response to his inquiries.[30] He dropped out of Stanford after two days, deciding instead to join the Internet boom and launch an Internet startup.[42]

Business career

Zip2

External video
  Musk speaks of his early business experience during a 2014 commencement speech at USC on YouTube

In 1995, Musk, his brother Kimbal, and Greg Kouri founded web software company Zip2 with funds borrowed from Musk's father.[43][20] They housed the venture at a small rented office in Palo Alto.[44] The company developed and marketed an Internet city guide for the newspaper publishing industry, with maps, directions, and yellow pages.[45] Musk says that before the company became successful, he could not afford an apartment and instead rented an office; he slept on the couch, showered at the YMCA, and shared one computer with his brother.[46]

According to Musk, "The website was up during the day and I was coding it at night, seven days a week, all the time."[44] The Musk brothers obtained contracts with The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune,[47] and persuaded the board of directors to abandon plans for a merger with CitySearch.[48] Musk's attempts to become CEO, a position held by its Chairman Rich Sorkin,[49] were thwarted by the board.[50] Compaq acquired Zip2 for $307 million in cash in February 1999,[51][52] and Musk received $22 million for his 7-percent share.[53]

X.com and PayPal

In 1999, Musk co-founded X.com, an online financial services and e-mail payment company.[54] The startup was one of the first federally insured online banks, and, in its initial months of operation, over 200,000 customers joined the service.[55] The company's investors regarded Musk as inexperienced and replaced him with Intuit CEO Bill Harris by the end of the year.[56] The following year, X.com merged with online bank Confinity to avoid competition.[44][56][57] Founded by Max Levchin and Peter Thiel,[58] Confinity had its own money-transfer service, PayPal, which was more popular than X.com's service.[59]

Within the merged company, Musk returned as CEO. Musk's preference for Microsoft software over Unix created a rift in the company and caused Thiel to resign.[60] Due to resulting technological issues and lack of a cohesive business model, the board ousted Musk and replaced him with Thiel in September 2000.[61][c] Under Thiel, the company focused on the PayPal service and was renamed PayPal in 2001.[63][64] In 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in stock, of which Musk—the largest shareholder with 11.72% of shares—received $175.8 million.[65][66] In 2017, Musk purchased the domain X.com from PayPal for an undisclosed amount, explaining it has sentimental value.[67][68]

SpaceX

 
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden congratulates Musk in front of the SpaceX Dragon following its successful 2012 mission.

In 2001, Musk became involved with the nonprofit Mars Society. He was inspired by plans to place a growth-chamber for plants on Mars and discussed funding the project himself.[69] In October 2001, Musk traveled to Moscow with Jim Cantrell and Mike Griffin to buy refurbished intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could send the greenhouse payloads into space. He met with companies NPO Lavochkin and Kosmotras; however, Musk was seen as a novice and was even spat on by one of the Russian chief designers.[70]

The group returned to the United States empty-handed. In February 2002, the group returned to Russia to look for three ICBMs. They had another meeting with Kosmotras and were offered one rocket for $8 million, which Musk rejected. Musk instead decided to start a company that could build affordable rockets.[70] With $100 million of his early fortune,[71] Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp., traded as SpaceX, in May 2002.[72] As of 2021, he remains the company's CEO and also holds the title of Chief Engineer.[73]

SpaceX attempted its first launch of the Falcon 1 rocket in 2006,[74] and although the rocket failed to reach Earth orbit, it was awarded a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program contract from NASA later that year.[75] After two more failed attempts, which reportedly caused Musk so much stress that he was "waking from nightmares, screaming and in physical pain",[76] SpaceX succeeded in launching the Falcon 1 into orbit in 2008, making it the first private liquid-fuel rocket to do so.[77] Later that year, SpaceX received a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services program contract from NASA for 12 flights of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, replacing the Space Shuttle after its 2011 retirement.[78] In 2012, the Dragon vehicle berthed with the ISS, a first for a private enterprise.[79]

 
Musk discussing Starship with NORAD and AFSPC in 2019

Working towards its goal of reusable rockets, in 2015 SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9.[80] Landings were later achieved on an autonomous spaceport drone ship, an ocean-based recovery platform.[81] In 2018, SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy; the inaugural mission carried Musk's personal Tesla Roadster as a dummy payload.[82][83] In 2017, SpaceX unveiled its next-generation launch vehicle and spacecraft system, Big Falcon Rocket, later renamed to Starship, which would support all SpaceX launch service provider capabilities.[84] The following year, SpaceX announced a planned 2023 lunar circumnavigation mission, a private flight called dearMoon project.[85] In 2020, SpaceX launched its first crewed flight, the Demo-2, becoming the first private company to place a person into orbit and dock a crewed spacecraft with the ISS.[86]

SpaceX began development of the Starlink constellation of low Earth orbit satellites in 2015 to provide satellite Internet access,[87] with the first two prototype satellites launched in February 2018. A second set of test satellites and the first large deployment of a piece of the constellation occurred in May 2019, when the first 60 operational satellites were launched.[88] The total cost of the decade-long project to design, build, and deploy the constellation is estimated by SpaceX to be about $10 billion.[89][d] During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Musk sent Starlink systems to Ukraine to provide internet access and communication,[92] an action praised by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.[93][94] However, he refused to block Russian state media on Starlink, declaring himself "a free speech absolutist."[95][96] Some critics, including the International Astronomical Union, have alleged that Starlink blocks the view of the sky and poses a collision threat for spacecraft.[97][98][99]

Tesla

 
Musk next to a Tesla Model S, 2011

Tesla, Inc.—originally Tesla Motors—was incorporated in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who financed the company until the Series A round of funding.[100] Both men played active roles in the company's early development prior to Musk's involvement.[101] Musk led the Series A round of investment in February 2004; he invested $6.5 million, became the majority shareholder, and joined Tesla's board of directors as chairman.[102][103] Musk took an active role within the company and oversaw Roadster product design but was not deeply involved in day-to-day business operations.[104]

Following a series of escalating conflicts in 2007 and the 2008 financial crisis, Eberhard was ousted from the firm.[105][106] Musk assumed leadership of the company as CEO and product architect in 2008.[107] A 2009 lawsuit settlement with Eberhard designated Musk as a Tesla co-founder, along with Tarpenning and two others.[108][109] As of 2019, Musk was the longest-tenured CEO of any automotive manufacturer globally.[110] In 2021 Musk nominally changed his title to "Technoking" while retaining his position as CEO.[111]

Tesla first built an electric sports car, the Roadster, in 2008. With sales of about 2,500 vehicles, it was the first serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells.[112] Tesla began delivery of its four-door Model S sedan in 2012.[113] A cross-over, the Model X was launched in 2015.[114][115] A mass market sedan, the Model 3, was released in 2017.[116][117] The Model 3 is the all-time best-selling plug-in electric car worldwide, and in June 2021 it became the first electric car to sell 1 million units globally.[118][119] A fifth vehicle, the Model Y crossover, was launched in 2020.[120] The Cybertruck—an all-electric pickup truck—was unveiled in 2019.[121] Under Musk, Tesla has also constructed multiple lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle factories, such as Gigafactory 1 in Nevada, Gigafactory 2 in New York, Gigafactory 3 in China, Gigafactory 4 in Germany and Gigafactory 5 in Texas.[122][123][124][125][126][127]

 
Musk at the 2014 Tesla annual shareholder meeting. A Model X is projected behind him.

Since its initial public offering in 2010,[128] Tesla stock has risen significantly; it became the most valuable carmaker in summer 2020,[129][130] and it entered the S&P 500 later that year.[131][132] In October 2021 it reached a market capitalization of $1 trillion, the sixth company to do so in US history.[133] On November 6, 2021, Musk proposed on Twitter selling 10% of his Tesla stock, since "much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance".[134][135] After more than 3.5 million Twitter accounts supported the sale, Musk sold $6.9 billion of Tesla stock in the week ending November 12,[134] and a total of $16.4 billion by year end, reaching the 10% target.[136] In February 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported that both Elon and Kimbal Musk were under investigation by the SEC for possible insider trading related to the sale.[137]

SEC lawsuit

In September 2018, Musk was sued by the SEC for a tweet claiming funding had been secured for potentially taking Tesla private.[138][139][e] The lawsuit characterized the tweet as false, misleading, and damaging to investors, and sought to bar Musk from serving as CEO of publicly traded companies.[139][143][144] Two days later, Musk settled with the SEC, without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations. As a result, Musk and Tesla were fined $20 million each, and Musk was forced to step down for three years as Tesla chairman but was able to remain as CEO.[145][146]

Musk has stated in interviews he does not regret posting the tweet that triggered the SEC investigation.[147][148] On February 19, 2019, Musk stated in a tweet that Tesla would build half a million cars in 2019.[149] The SEC reacted to Musk's tweet by filing in court, initially asking the court to hold him in contempt for violating the terms of a settlement agreement with such a tweet, which was disputed by Musk. This was eventually settled by a joint agreement between Musk and the SEC clarifying the previous agreement details.[150] The agreement included a list of topics that Musk would need preclearance before tweeting about.[151] In May 2020, a judge prevented a lawsuit from proceeding that claimed a tweet by Musk regarding Tesla stock price ("too high imo") violated the agreement.[152][153] FOIA released records showing that the SEC itself concluded Musk has subsequently violated the agreement twice by tweeting regarding "Tesla's solar roof production volumes and its stock price".[154]

SolarCity and Tesla Energy

 
SolarCity solar-panel installation vans in 2009

Musk provided the initial concept and financial capital for SolarCity, which his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive founded in 2006.[155] By 2013, SolarCity was the second largest provider of solar power systems in the United States.[156] In 2014 Musk promoted the idea of SolarCity building an advanced production facility in Buffalo, New York, triple the size of the largest solar plant in the United States.[157] Construction on the factory started in 2014 and was completed in 2017. It operated as a joint venture with Panasonic until early 2020 when Panasonic departed.[158][159]

Tesla acquired SolarCity for over $2 billion in 2016 and merged it with its battery unit to create Tesla Energy. The announcement of the deal resulted in a more than 10% drop in Tesla's stock price. At the time, SolarCity was facing liquidity issues.[160] Multiple shareholder groups filed a lawsuit against Musk and Tesla's directors, claiming that the purchase of SolarCity was done solely to benefit Musk and came at the expense of Tesla and its shareholders.[161][162] Tesla directors settled the lawsuit in January 2020, leaving Musk the sole remaining defendant.[163][164] Two years later, the court ruled in Musk's favor.[165]

Neuralink

 
Musk discussing a Neuralink device during a live demonstration in 2020

In 2016, Musk co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology startup company to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence (AI) by creating devices that are embedded in the brain to facilitate its merging with machines. The devices will also reconcile with the latest improvements in AI to stay updated. Such improvements could enhance memory or allow the devices to communicate with software more effectively.[166][167]

At a 2020 live demonstration, Musk described one of their early devices as "a Fitbit in your skull" that could soon cure paralysis, deafness, blindness, and other disabilities. Many neuroscientists and publications criticized these claims;[168][169][170] MIT Technology Review described them as "highly speculative" and "neuroscience theater".[168]

The Boring Company

 
Musk during the 2018 inauguration of the Boring Test Tunnel in Hawthorne, California

In 2017, Musk founded The Boring Company to construct tunnels.[171] Early that year, the company began discussions with regulatory bodies and initiated construction of a 30-foot (9.1 m) wide, 50-foot (15 m) long, and 15-foot (4.6 m) deep "test trench" on the premises of SpaceX's offices as it required no permits.[172] A tunnel beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center was completed in early 2021.[173] Local officials have approved further expansions of the tunnel system.[174]

As a merchandising and publicity stunt, The Boring Company sold 2,000 novelty flamethrowers in 2018.[175][176] The idea was inspired by the Mel Brooks-directed film Spaceballs (1987).[177][178]

Twitter

Since joining the social media platform in 2009,[179] Musk has been an active user of Twitter, where he has over 95 million followers.[180] He posts memes, promotes his business interests, and comments on contemporary political and cultural issues.[181]

As early as 2017, Musk tweeted interest in buying Twitter.[182] In January 2022, Musk began purchasing significant quantities of shares in the company, reaching a 5% stake in the company in March.[183] Musk reached a total of 73,115,038 shares on April 1, 9.13% of Twitter's overall shares, then valued at $2.64 billion, making him the largest shareholder.[184][184] Musk did not file the necessary paperwork to notify the SEC within 10 days of his stake passing 5%, a violation of US securities laws.[184][185] When Musk publicly disclosed his investment in an SEC 13G filing on April 4, 2022, Twitter shares experienced the largest intraday surge since its 2013 IPO.[180] The revelation that Musk had acquired a significant stake in Twitter followed Musk's March tweets in which he questioned Twitter's commitment to freedom of speech and said he was considering developing a rival social media site,[186][187][188] although the comments were made after he had acquired 7.5% of the company.[183][189]

On April 4, Musk agreed to a deal that would appoint him to Twitter's board of directors and prohibit him from acquiring more than 14.9% of the company.[190][191] However, on April 13, Musk made a $43 billion offer to buy Twitter, launching a takeover bid to buy 100% of Twitter's stock at $54.20 per share. In a letter to Twitter's board, he argued that a private Twitter would thrive and best advance free speech.[192][193][194] In response, Twitter's board adopted a shareholder rights plan to make it significantly more expensive for any single investor to own more than 15% of the company without approval of the board.[195] A week later, Musk secured funding worth $46.5 billion,[196] which included $12.5 billion in loans against his stock in Tesla and $21 billion in equity financing.[197][198] Later that day, Musk successfully concluded his bid to buy Twitter and bring the company private for approximately $44 billion.[199]

Tesla's stock market value sank by more than $125 billion the next day in reaction to the deal, causing Musk to lose around $30 billion of his net worth.[200][201] He subsequently tweeted criticism of Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde's policies to his 86 million followers, which led to some of them engaging in sexist and racist harassment against her.[202] Exactly a month after announcing the takeover, Musk stated that the deal was "on hold" following a report that 5 percent of Twitter's daily active users were spam accounts,[203] causing Twitter shares to drop more than 10 percent.[204] He later clarified that he remained committed to the acquisition.[205]

Leadership style

Musk's leadership style and treatment of employees have been criticized.[206][207] The Wall Street Journal reported that, after Musk insisted on branding his vehicles as "self-driving", he faced criticism from his engineers, some of whom resigned in response, with one stating that Musk's "reckless decision making... ha[d] potentially put customer lives at risk".[208] The New York Times characterized Musk's managerial style as impetuous, operating on impulse and "the belief that he is absolutely right".[209] The 2021 book Power Play contains anecdotes of Musk berating employees.[210] Wired News reported that Tesla employees were told not to walk past Musk's desk because of his "wild firing rampages".[206] In June 2022, Musk suspended remote work at SpaceX and Tesla and threatened to fire employees who do not work 40 hours per week in the office.[211]

Other activities

Hyperloop

 
Part of the annual Hyperloop pod competition sponsored by SpaceX (pictured in 2017)

In 2013, Musk announced plans for a version of a vactrain—a vacuum tube train—and assigned a dozen engineers from SpaceX and Tesla to establish the conceptual foundations and create initial designs.[212] Later that year, Musk unveiled the concept, which he dubbed the hyperloop.[213] The alpha design for the system was published in a whitepaper posted to the Tesla and SpaceX blogs.[214] The document scoped out the technology and outlined a notional route where such a transport system could be built between the Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area at an estimated cost of $6 billion.[215] The proposal, if technologically feasible at the costs he has cited, would make Hyperloop travel cheaper than any other mode of transport for such long distances.[216]

In 2015, Musk announced a design competition for students and others to build Hyperloop pods to operate on a SpaceX-sponsored mile-long track in a 2015–2017 Hyperloop pod competition. The track was used in January 2017, and Musk also announced that the company started a tunnel project with Hawthorne airport as its destination.[217] In July 2017, Musk claimed that he had received "verbal government approval" to build a hyperloop from New York City to Washington, D.C., stopping in both Philadelphia and Baltimore.[218] Mention of the project for the DC to Baltimore part was removed from the Boring Company website in 2021.[219]

OpenAI

In 2015, Musk founded OpenAI, a not-for-profit AI research company aiming to develop artificial general intelligence intended to be safe and beneficial to humanity.[220] A particular focus of the company is to "counteract large corporations [and governments] who may gain too much power by owning super-intelligence systems".[20][221] In 2018, Musk left the OpenAI board to avoid possible future conflicts with his role as CEO of Tesla as the company increasingly became involved in AI through Tesla Autopilot.[222]

Tham Luang cave rescue & defamation case

In July 2018, Musk arranged for his employees to build a mini-submarine to assist the rescue of children stuck in a flooded cavern in Thailand.[223] Richard Stanton, leader of the international rescue diving team, urged Musk to facilitate the construction of the vehicle as a back-up, in case flooding worsened.[224][225]

Engineers at SpaceX and The Boring Company built the mini-submarine from a Falcon 9 liquid oxygen transfer tube in eight hours and personally delivered it to Thailand.[226][227] By this time, however, eight of the 12 children had already been rescued using full face masks and oxygen under anesthesia; consequently Thai authorities declined to use the submarine.[223] Musk was later one of the 187 people who received various honors conferred by the King of Thailand in March 2019 for involvement in the rescue effort, e.g. the Order of the Direkgunabhorn.[228][229]

Soon after the rescue, Vernon Unsworth, a British recreational caver who had been exploring the cave for the previous six years and played a key advisory role in the operation, criticized the submarine on CNN as amounting to nothing more than a public relations effort with no chance of success, and that Musk "had no conception of what the cave passage was like" and "can stick his submarine where it hurts". Musk asserted on Twitter that the device would have worked and referred to Unsworth as a "pedo guy".[230] He deleted the tweets,[230] and apologized,[231][232] along with responses to critical tweets from Cher Scarlett, a software engineer, which had caused his followers to harass her.[233] In an email to BuzzFeed News, Musk later called Unsworth a "child rapist" and said that he had married a child.[234][235]

In September, Unsworth filed a defamation suit in Los Angeles federal court.[236][237] In his defense, Musk argued that "'pedo guy' was a common insult used in South Africa when I was growing up ... synonymous with 'creepy old man' and is used to insult a person's appearance and demeanor".[28] The defamation case began in December 2019, with Unsworth seeking $190 million in damages.[238] During the trial Musk apologized to Unsworth again for the tweet. On December 6, the jury found in favor of Musk and ruled he was not liable.[239][240]

2018 Joe Rogan podcast appearance

In 2018, Musk appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast and discussed various topics for over two hours. During the interview, Musk sampled a puff from a cigar consisting, Joe Rogan claimed, of tobacco laced with cannabis. Tesla stock dropped after the incident, which coincided with the confirmation of the departure of Tesla's vice president of worldwide finance earlier that day.[241][242] Fortune wondered if the cannabis use could have ramifications for SpaceX contracts with the United States Air Force, though an Air Force spokesperson told The Verge that there was no investigation and that the Air Force was still processing the situation.[243][244] In a 60 Minutes interview, Musk said of the incident: "I do not smoke pot. As anybody who watched that podcast could tell, I have no idea how to smoke pot."[245][246]

Music ventures

In 2019, Musk released a rap track, "RIP Harambe" on SoundCloud as Emo G Records. The track, which refers to the killing of Harambe the gorilla and the subsequent "tasteless" Internet sensationalism surrounding the event, was performed by Yung Jake, written by Yung Jake and Caroline Polachek, and produced by BloodPop.[247][248] The following year, Musk released an EDM track, "Don't Doubt Ur Vibe", featuring his own lyrics and vocals.[249] While The Guardian critic Alexi Petridis described it as "indistinguishable... from umpteen competent but unthrilling bits of bedroom electronica posted elsewhere on Soundcloud",[250] TechCrunch said it was "not a bad representation of the genre".[249]

Philanthropy

Musk is president of the Musk Foundation,[251] which states its purpose is to provide solar-power energy systems in disaster areas; support research, development, and advocacy (for interests including human space exploration, pediatrics, renewable energy and "safe artificial intelligence"); and support science and engineering educational efforts.[252][253] Since 2002, the foundation has made over 350 contributions. Around half were to scientific research or education nonprofits. Notable beneficiaries include the Wikimedia Foundation, his alma mater the University of Pennsylvania, and Kimbal's Big Green.[254] Vox described the foundation as "almost entertaining in its simplicity and yet is strikingly opaque", noting that its website was only 33 words in plain-text.[255] The foundation has been criticized for the relatively small amount of wealth donated.[256] From 2002 to 2018, it gave out $25 million directly to non-profits, nearly half of which went to Musk's OpenAI,[255] which was at the time a non-profit organization.[257]

In 2012, Musk took the Giving Pledge, thereby committing to give the majority of his wealth to charitable causes either during his lifetimes or in his will.[258] He has endowed prizes at the X Prize Foundation, including $100 million to reward improved carbon capture technology.[259][260][261]

In 2020, Forbes gave Musk a philanthropy score of 1, because he had given away less than 1% of his net worth.[254] In November 2021, Musk donated $5.7 billion of Tesla's shares to charity; however,[262] Fortune magazine noted that no nonprofits subsequently announced receiving any money from Musk, despite his November 2021 regulatory filing citing earmarking 5.7 billion worth of his Tesla shares for charity.[263]

Wealth

 
Musk's net worth from 2012 to 2021 as estimated by Forbes magazine

Musk made $175.8 million when PayPal was sold to eBay in 2002.[264] He was first listed on the Forbes Billionaires List in 2012, with a net worth of $2 billion.[265]

At the start of 2020, Musk had a net worth of $27 billion.[266] By the year's end his net worth had increased by $150 billion, largely driven by his ownership of around 20% of Tesla stock.[267] During this, Musk's net worth was often volatile. For example, it dropped $16.3 billion in September, the largest single-day plunge in Bloomberg Billionaires Index's history.[268] In November of that year, Musk passed Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to become the third-richest person in the world; a week later he passed Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to become the second-richest.[269] In January 2021, Musk, with a net worth of $185 billion, surpassed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to become the richest person in the world.[270] Bezos reclaimed the top spot the following month.[271] On September 27, 2021, Forbes announced that Musk had a net worth of over $200 billion, and was the richest person in the world, after Tesla stock surged.[272] In November 2021, Musk became the first person with a net worth over $300 billion.[273]

Around three-quarters of Musk's wealth derives from Tesla.[269] Musk does not receive a salary from Tesla; he agreed in 2018 to a compensation plan with the board that ties his personal earnings to Tesla's valuation and revenue.[267] The deal stipulated that Musk only receives the compensation if Tesla reaches certain market values.[274] It was the largest such deal ever done between a CEO and board.[275] In the first award, given in May 2020, he was eligible to purchase 1.69 million TSLA shares (about 1% of the company) at below-market prices, which was worth about $800 million.[275][274]

Musk paid $455 million in taxes on $1.52 billion of income between 2014 and 2018.[276] According to ProPublica, Musk paid no federal income taxes in 2018.[277] He claimed his 2021 tax bill was estimated at $12 billion based on his sale of $14 billion worth of Tesla stock.[276]

Musk has repeatedly described himself as "cash poor",[278][279] and has "professed to have little interest in the material trappings of wealth".[278] In 2012, Musk signed The Giving Pledge and, in May 2020, pledged to "sell almost all physical possessions".[280][279] In 2021, Musk defended his wealth by saying he is "accumulating resources to help make life multiplanetary [and] extend the light of consciousness to the stars".[281] In 2003, Musk said his favorite plane he owned was the L-39 Albatros.[282][283] He uses a private jet owned by SpaceX and acquired a second jet in August 2020.[284][285][286] The jet's heavy use of fossil fuels—it flew over 150,000 miles in 2018—has received criticism.[284][287]

Views

Existential threats

 
Musk giving details about Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft at the 2006 Mars Society Conference

Musk has stated that artificial intelligence poses the greatest existential threat to humanity.[288][289] He has warned of a "Terminator-like" AI apocalypse and suggested that the government should regulate its safe development.[290][291][292] These stances are considered alarmist and sensationalist by critics like computer scientist Yann LeCun or industry leader Mark Zuckerberg,[293][294][295] and led the think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation to award Musk its Annual Luddite Award in 2016.[296]

Musk has described climate change as the greatest threat to humanity after AI,[297] and has advocated for a carbon tax.[298] Musk criticized then-president Donald Trump for his stance on climate change and after joining Trump's two business advisory councils,[299][300][301] Musk resigned from both in 2017 in protest against Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement.[302]

Musk has long promoted the colonization of Mars and argues that humanity should become a "multiplanetary species".[303] He has envisaged the use of nuclear weapons to terraform Mars.[304][305] He envisioned enacting a direct democracy on Mars with a system in which more votes would be required to create laws than remove them.[306]

Musk has also voiced concerns about human population decline,[307][308] saying that "Mars has zero human population. We need a lot of people to become a multiplanet civilization."[309] Speaking at The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council session in 2021, Musk stated that declining birth rates and population is one of the biggest risks to human civilization.[310]

Politics

Musk with Senator Dianne Feinstein at the opening of the Tesla Fremont Factory (2010), and with Vice President Mike Pence at the Kennedy Space Center before SpaceX's Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch (2020)

Although often described as libertarian, Musk has called himself "politically moderate" and was a registered independent when he lived in California. The New York Times noted that Musk "expresses views that don't fit neatly into [the American] binary, left-right political framework."[311] Historically, Musk has donated to both Democrats and Republicans,[312] many of whom are in states in which he has a vested interest.[311] Musk has also been described as having a "charm offensive" to woo China and its markets for Tesla.[313]

Musk voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[314] In the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, Musk endorsed candidate Andrew Yang and expressed support for his proposed universal basic income.[315] He also endorsed Kanye West's independent campaign in the 2020 general election,[316] but ultimately voted for Joe Biden in 2020.[314] In 2022, Musk said that he could "no longer support" the Democrats,[317][318][319] and leaned towards supporting Republican Ron DeSantis in the 2024 U.S. presidential election if he were a candidate.[320][321][322] Musk opposes a "billionaire tax",[323] and has argued with more progressive Democratic politicians like Bernie Sanders,[324][325][326] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,[327] and Elizabeth Warren.[328]

Musk's statements have often provoked controversy, such as for mocking preferred gender pronouns,[329][330] comparing Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler in support of the 2022 Canada convoy protest,[331][332] and saying that the U.S. can "coup whoever we want".[333]

Technology

Musk has also claimed that humans are probably living in a computer simulation.[334] He has said he cannot see the appeal of a virtual reality-driven metaverse.[335]

Despite The Boring Company's involvement in building mass transit infrastructure, Musk has criticized public transport and promoted individualized transport (private vehicles).[336][337][338] His comments have been called "elitist" and have sparked widespread criticism from both transportation and urban planning experts, who have pointed out that public transportation in dense urban areas is more economical, more energy efficient, and requires much less space than private cars.[337][339][338][280]

COVID-19

 
Musk wears a bandana as a face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic (2021)

Musk was criticized for his public comments and conduct related to the COVID-19 pandemic.[340][341] He spread misinformation about the virus, including promoting a widely discredited paper on the benefits of chloroquine and a study that suggested doctors inflated COVID-19 case numbers for financial gain.[342]

In March 2020, Musk stated, "The coronavirus panic is dumb."[343][344] In an email to Tesla employees, Musk referred to COVID-19 as a "specific form of the common cold" and predicted that confirmed COVID-19 cases would not exceed 0.1% of the US population.[345][340] On March 19, 2020, Musk predicted that there would be "probably close to zero new cases in [the US] by end of April".[341][346] Politico labeled this statement one of "the most audacious, confident and spectacularly incorrect prognostications [of 2020]".[347] Musk also claimed falsely that children "are essentially immune" to COVID-19.[348][349]

Musk condemned COVID-19 lockdowns and refused to close the Tesla Fremont factory in March 2020, defying the local shelter-in-place order.[340][350][351] In May 2020, he reopened the Tesla factory, defying the local stay-at-home order,[352][353] and warned workers that they would be unpaid and their pandemic unemployment benefits might be jeopardized if they did not report to work.[353]

In March 2020, Musk promised that Tesla would make ventilators for COVID-19 patients if there was a shortage.[354] After figures like New York City mayor Bill de Blasio responded to Musk's offer,[355] Musk said he thought the ventilators which Tesla was working on would probably be unneeded.[356] Later, Musk offered to donate ventilators which Tesla would build or buy from a third party.[354] However, instead of the much more expensive and sought-after invasive mechanical ventilator (IMV) machines, Musk eventually bought and donated medical devices that hospitals noted were BiPAP and CPAP machines.[357][358][359]

In September 2020, Musk stated that he would not get the COVID-19 vaccine, because he and his children were "not at risk for COVID".[360][361][362] Two months later, Musk contracted COVID-19 and suggested his COVID-19 rapid antigen test results were dubious, after which the phrase "Space Karen" trended on Twitter, in reference to Musk.[363][364] However, in December 2021, Musk revealed that he and his eligible children had received the vaccine.[365]

Finance

Musk has stated that he does not believe the US government should provide subsidies to companies; instead they should use a carbon tax to discourage poor behavior.[366][367] Musk says that the free market would achieve the best solution, and that producing environmentally unfriendly vehicles should come with its own consequences.[368] His stance has been called hypocritical as Tesla has received billions of dollars in subsidies.[369] In addition, Tesla made large sums from government-initiated systems of zero emissions credits offered in California and the United States federal level, which enabled improved initial consumer adoption of Tesla vehicles, as the tax credits given by governments enabled Tesla's battery electric vehicles to be price-competitive, in relative comparison with existing lower-priced internal combustion engine vehicles.[370] Notably, Tesla generates much of its revenue from its sales of carbon credits granted to the company, by both the European Union Emissions Trading System and the Chinese national carbon trading scheme.[371][372][373][374]

Musk, a longtime opponent of short-selling, has repeatedly criticized the practice and argued it should be illegal.[375][376] Musk's opposition to short-selling has been speculated to stem from how short-sellers often target and publish opposition research about his companies.[377] In early 2021, he encouraged the GameStop short squeeze.[378][379]

Cryptocurrency

Musk has promoted cryptocurrencies and supports them over traditional government-issued fiat currencies.[380] Given the influence of Musk's tweets on moving cryptocurrency markets,[381] his statements around cryptocurrencies have been viewed as market manipulation by some, such as economist Nouriel Roubini.[382] Musk's social media praising of Bitcoin and Dogecoin was credited for increasing their prices. Consequently, Tesla's 2021 announcement that it bought $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin raised questions against the backdrop of Musk's social media behavior.[383] Tesla's announcement that it would accept Bitcoin for payment was criticized by environmentalists and investors due to the environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining; in 2021, the energy consumption of Bitcoin mining, which has built-in energy inefficiency, exceeded that of Argentina. A few months later, in response to the criticism, Musk announced on Twitter that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin and would not engage in any Bitcoin transactions until the environmental issues are solved.[384][385]

Personal life

From the early 2000s until late 2020, Musk resided in California where both Tesla and SpaceX were founded and where their headquarters are still located.[386] In 2020, he moved to Texas, stating that California had become "complacent" with its economic success.[386][387]

Marriages, dating life, and children

Musk met his first wife, Canadian Justine Wilson, while attending Queen's University, and they married in 2000.[388] In 2002, their first child died of sudden infant death syndrome at the age of 10 weeks.[389] After his death, the couple decided to use IVF to continue their family.[390] They had twins in 2004 followed by triplets in 2006.[390] The couple divorced in 2008 and shared custody of their children.[388][391][392] In 2022, one of their children officially changed her name to reflect her gender identity, and because she no longer wished to be associated with Musk.[393]

In 2008, Musk began dating English actress Talulah Riley.[394] They married in September 2010 at Dornoch Cathedral in Scotland.[395][396] In 2012, he announced a divorce from Riley.[397][398] In 2013, Musk and Riley remarried. In December 2014, he filed for a second divorce from Riley; however, the action was withdrawn.[399] A second divorce was finalized in 2016.[400][401] Musk then dated Amber Heard for several months in 2017;[402][403] he had reportedly been pursuing her since 2012.[403] Musk was later accused by Johnny Depp of having an affair with Heard while she was still married to Depp.[404][405][406] Musk and Heard both denied the affair.[404]

In 2018, Musk and Canadian musician Grimes revealed that they were dating.[407][408] Grimes gave birth to their son in May 2020.[409][410] According to Musk and Grimes, his name was "X Æ A-12"; however, the name would have violated California regulations as it contained characters that are not in the modern English alphabet,[411][412] and was then changed to "X Æ A-Xii". This drew more confusion, as Æ is not a letter in the modern English alphabet.[413] The child was eventually named "X AE A-XII" Musk, with "X" as a first name, "AE A-XII" as a middle name, and "Musk" as surname.[414] Musk confirmed reports that the couple are "semi-separated" in September 2021; in an interview with Time in December 2021, he said he was single.[415][416] In March 2022, Grimes said of her relationship with Musk: "I would probably refer to him as my boyfriend, but we're very fluid." She further revealed that their first daughter was born in December 2021 via surrogate.[2] Later that month, Grimes tweeted that she and Musk had broken up again "but he's my best friend and the love of my life."[417]

Sexual misconduct allegation

In May 2022, a Business Insider article alleged that Musk engaged in sexual misconduct with a SpaceX flight attendant in a private jet in 2016. According to the article, citing an anonymous friend of a flight attendant, in November 2018, Musk, SpaceX and the former flight attendant entered into a severance agreement granting the attendant a $250,000 payment in exchange for a promise not to sue over the claims.[418]

Musk stated, "If I were inclined to engage in sexual harassment, this is unlikely to be the first time in my entire 30-year career that it comes to light". Musk accused the article from Business Insider of being a "politically motivated hit piece".[419][420] After the release of the Business Insider article, Tesla's stock fell by more than 6%,[421] decreasing Musk's net worth by $10 billion.[422] Barron's wrote "...some investors considered key-man risk - the danger that a company could be badly hurt by the loss of one individual."[423]

Health and conditions

Musk contracted malaria in 2000 while on vacation in South Africa, and nearly died.[424] While hosting Saturday Night Live in May 2021, Musk stated that he has Asperger syndrome.[425]

Public recognition

In popular culture

Musk has made multiple cameos and appearances in films such as Iron Man 2 (2010),[426] Machete Kills (2013),[427] Why Him? (2016),[428] and Men in Black: International (2019).[429] Television series on which he has appeared include The Simpsons ("The Musk Who Fell to Earth", 2015),[430] The Big Bang Theory ("The Platonic Permutation", 2015),[431] South Park ("Members Only", 2016),[432][433] Rick and Morty ("One Crew over the Crewcoo's Morty", 2019),[434][435] Young Sheldon ("A Patch, a Modem, and a Zantac®", 2017)[436] and Saturday Night Live (2021).[437] He contributed interviews to the documentaries Racing Extinction (2015) and the Werner Herzog-directed Lo and Behold (2016).[438][439]

Accolades

Musk was elected a fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2018.[440] In 2015 he received an honorary doctorate in engineering and technology at Yale[441] and IEEE Honorary Membership.[442] Awards for his contributions to the development of the Falcon rockets include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics George Low Transportation Award in 2008,[443] the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Gold Space Medal in 2010,[444] and the Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Medal in 2012.[445] He was listed among Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2010,[446] 2013,[447] 2018,[448] and 2021.[449] Musk was selected as Time's "Person of the Year" for 2021. Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote that "Person of the Year is a marker of influence, and few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and potentially life off Earth too".[450][451] In 2022, Musk was elected as a member into the National Academy of Engineering.[452]

Notes and references

Notes

  1. ^ One child is deceased.[3]
  2. ^ In an interview with The New York Times, Errol said his children had good relationships with Black people, including their domestic staff.[7]
  3. ^ Musk remained on the board and served as an advisor.[62][63]
  4. ^ SpaceX received nearly $900 million in Federal Communications Commission subsidies for Starlink.[90][91]
  5. ^ Musk stated he was considering taking Tesla private at a price of $420 a share, an alleged reference to marijuana.[140] Members of Tesla's board and rapper Azealia Banks alleged that Musk may have been under the influence of recreational drugs when he wrote the tweet.[141][142]

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Works cited

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  • Vance, Ashlee (2017) [2015]. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (2nd ed.). New York: Ecco. ISBN 978-0-06-230125-3.

External links

Honorary titles
Preceded by World's richest person
2022–present
Succeeded by
Incumbent