Opinions are divided on Tesla boss Elon Musk. His fans see him alongside entrepreneurial legends such as Steve Jobs, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. His opponents consider him a con man and a market manipulator.
the essentials in brief
Musk is celebrating his birthday this Monday at the height of his career so far. The dazzling multibillionaire tech went through many ups and downs in the past few years, but today he has more money, success and influence than ever before. Still, Musk doesn’t have time to breathe – because the next projects are already in full swing.
Musk is expanding worldwide with Tesla – the company is currently building its first plant in Europe near Berlin. After Tesla was on the verge of bankruptcy a few years ago, Musk’s company is now by far the most valuable car maker in the world on the stock exchange.
But the real superstar is Musk himself. The cult around the Tesla boss has reached such proportions that – despite all the antics and unpredictability – he has now become an important pacemaker in the financial markets.
Musk – who has had the eccentric title of “Technoking” at the electric car manufacturer Tesla since March – has recently mainly stirred up the crypto scene. As if the bustling businessman and father of six didn’t already have enough to do, he chases the rates of digital currencies such as Bitcoin or Dogecoin up and down with his tweets. Although Musk also runs the rocket company SpaceX and various other projects in addition to Tesla, he is highly active on Twitter, where he is followed by over 57 million users. Not everyone likes that, however.
In March, for example, a Tesla investor sued the CEO for “erratic” tweets that allegedly exposed the company to high risks. Most recently, Musk met the ire of Bitcoin fans after sending the cyber currency on a downward slide with concerns about its high power consumption.
Musk’s archenemy, however, is the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which sanctioned him years ago for unbridled and allegedly manipulative tweets that moved Tesla’s share price. But that only seemed to spur the star entrepreneur on.
There were also times when Musk was at the limit and almost gave up everything. After Tesla faced a crucial test and in the meantime threatened to run out of money, he granted the New York Times unusually deep personal insights in an interview three years ago.
He has not taken more than a week off since 2001, when he was bedridden with malaria for a while. He works 120 hours a week. “There were times when I wouldn’t leave the factory for three or four days,” Musk said. Sometimes he can only find peace with the sleeping pill Ambien.
In September 2018, Musk caused a stir by pulling on a marijuana joint in front of the camera on a video podcast. But neither all these capers nor his many critics could stop Musk’s steep rise – on the contrary. Thanks to the success of Tesla, the self-made billionaire not only triumphed over his doubters, he also got richer.
Because Musk owns around 21 percent of the company’s shares and, as the largest shareholder, has benefited enormously from their price rally in recent years. Most recently, “Forbes” estimated his fortune at $ 154.7 billion. According to the magazine, he is the second richest person in the world behind Jeff Bezos.
Musk allegedly doesn’t care much about the immense wealth. In May 2020, he wrote on Twitter that he wanted to part with almost all physical possessions. In fact, US media recently reported that he had also put the last of his properties up for sale. Musk is considered a workaholic who sleeps in a sleeping bag in the Tesla factory when faced with stress.
Whether wealth is really that unimportant to him remains unclear. According to data recently leaked by the investigative network “ProPublica”, at least he does not differ from other billionaires when it comes to avoiding tax levies.
Musk’s entrepreneurial merits with Tesla, however, are relatively undisputed. He fulfilled his mission of bringing e-mobility to the mass market with the Model 3 mid-range car. His space company SpaceX, which will one day fly people to Mars, is also considered a great success.
Other projects have so far been less convincing. With the Boring Company, for example, Musk wants to eliminate traffic chaos through innovative tunnels. But there is still a problem here, so far the Boring Company has made a name for itself through merchandising rather than through the revolution in passenger transport that Musk promised.
But the Tesla boss made millions just selling fan merchandise such as flamethrowers and cemented his reputation as a marketing genius. However, Musk is always good for a scandal. At the beginning of the corona pandemic, for example, he downplayed the danger posed by the virus and described restrictions on going out in California, under which Tesla’s company suffered, as “fascist”. Media representatives and analysts also get their fat off – questions that Musk does not like, he sometimes rejects as “boring” or “not cool”.
Musk once earned his start-up capital as a co-founder of the Paypal payment service, and made a fortune when it was acquired by Ebay in 2002. He also provided obstetrics for the US solar company SolarCity, which was swallowed by Tesla in 2016.
The star entrepreneur is omnipresent in the media too. When things stay calm around his companies, his private life makes the headlines – for example through his affairs with Hollywood actress Amber Heard or his relationship with the Canadian singer Grimes.
Grimes and Musk have been a couple since 2018 and have a son, whom they gave the unusual name “X Æ A-Xii”. Musk also has five sons with his ex-wife, Canadian author Justine Wilson. In 2010 he married the British actress Talulah Riley. The couple divorced in 2012, remarried, but filed for divorce again in 2016.
Musk was born in South Africa and immigrated to Canada as a teenager. Four years later he moved to the USA, where he studied physics and economics at the University of Pennsylvania.
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