Elon Musk’s Journey to Success

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Part[2]

Tesla

Main article: Tesla, Inc.

Musk next to a Tesla Model S, 2011

Tesla, Inc., initially known as Tesla Motors, was founded in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Both founders were deeply involved in the company’s formative stages before Elon Musk became associated with Tesla. Musk entered the scene by leading the Series A investment round in February 2004, contributing $6.35 million, which made him the majority shareholder. He also joined Tesla’s board of directors as chairman, taking a keen interest in overseeing the design of the Roadster, though he did not manage daily business operations.

In 2007, due to increasing internal conflicts and the financial crisis of 2007-2008, Eberhard was removed from the company. Subsequently, in 2008, Musk stepped up as CEO and product architect, taking charge of Tesla’s leadership. A lawsuit settlement in 2009 officially recognized Musk, along with Tarpenning and two others, as co-founders of Tesla. By 2019, Musk had become the longest-serving CEO of any automotive company in the world. In 2021, while maintaining his role as CEO, Musk whimsically changed his title to “Technoking.”

Musk before a Model X at the 2014 Tesla Inc. annual shareholder meeting

Tesla launched its electric sports car, the Roadster, in 2008. With around 2,500 units sold, it became the first mass-produced all-electric car utilizing lithium-ion battery cells. In 2012, Tesla began delivering the Model S, a four-door sedan. This was followed by the launch of the Model X crossover in 2015. In 2017, Tesla introduced the Model 3, a mass-market sedan that has become the best-selling plug-in electric car globally. By June 2021, the Model 3 achieved a significant milestone, selling over 1 million units worldwide. In 2020, Tesla released its fifth vehicle, the Model Y crossover. The company unveiled the Cybertruck, an all-electric pickup, in 2019. Under Elon Musk’s leadership, Tesla has also established several Gigafactories dedicated to producing lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles.

Since its initial public offering in 2010, Tesla’s stock has experienced remarkable growth. By summer 2020, it had become the most valuable automaker, and later that year, it was added to the S&P 500 index. In October 2021, Tesla’s market capitalization soared to $1 trillion, making it the sixth company in U.S. history to achieve this milestone. In November 2021, Elon Musk suggested on Twitter that he would sell 10% of his Tesla stock to address concerns about tax avoidance related to unrealized gains. After receiving support from over 3.5 million Twitter users, Musk sold $6.9 billion worth of Tesla shares within a week, eventually selling a total of $16.4 billion by the end of the year to meet the 10% target.

In February 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported that the SEC was investigating both Elon and Kimbal Musk for potential insider trading connected to these sales. In 2022, Tesla introduced a robot named Optimus, which was developed under Musk’s leadership. Additionally, on June 20, 2023, Musk met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York City, indicating a potential interest in investing in India “as soon as humanly possible.”

SEC and shareholder lawsuits regarding tweets

In 2018, Elon Musk faced a lawsuit from the SEC due to a tweet in which he claimed that funding had been secured to potentially take Tesla private. The SEC argued that the tweet was false, misleading, and harmful to investors, and sought to bar Musk from serving as CEO of any publicly traded company. Musk settled with the SEC two days later without admitting or denying the allegations. The settlement required Musk and Tesla to each pay a $20 million fine, and Musk stepped down as Tesla chairman for three years, though he remained CEO. In April 2022, a federal judge ruled that Musk’s tweet was false, as claimed by the shareholder who initially sued Musk, though the ruling has not been unsealed. In February 2023, a jury found Musk and Tesla not liable for the tweet. Musk has publicly stated that he does not regret posting the tweet that led to the SEC investigation.

In 2019, Musk tweeted that Tesla would produce half a million cars that year. The SEC responded by filing a motion to hold him in contempt, alleging that the tweet violated their prior settlement agreement. Musk disputed this accusation, and the matter was resolved through a joint agreement that clarified the terms of the previous settlement. This agreement included a list of topics that Musk would need to obtain preclearance for before tweeting. In 2020, a judge blocked a lawsuit that claimed Musk’s tweet about Tesla’s stock price being “too high imo” violated the settlement agreement. Records released through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the SEC concluded Musk had violated the agreement twice more by tweeting about Tesla’s solar roof production volumes and its stock price.

SolarCity and Tesla Energy

Main articles: SolarCity and Tesla Energy

SolarCity solar-panel installation vans in 2009

Elon Musk provided the initial concept and financial backing for SolarCity, which was founded by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive in 2006. By 2013, SolarCity had become the second-largest provider of solar power systems in the United States. In 2014, Musk proposed that SolarCity construct an advanced production facility in Buffalo, New York, which would be three times larger than the biggest solar plant in the country at the time. Construction began in 2014 and was completed in 2017, with the factory operating as a joint venture with Panasonic until early 2020.

In 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity for over $2 billion, merging it with Tesla’s battery unit to form Tesla Energy. The announcement of the deal led to a more than 10% drop in Tesla’s stock price, as SolarCity was experiencing liquidity issues. This acquisition prompted multiple shareholder groups to file lawsuits against Musk and Tesla’s directors, claiming that the purchase was made primarily to benefit Musk at the expense of Tesla and its shareholders. In January 2020, Tesla’s directors settled the lawsuit, leaving Musk as the sole defendant. In 2022, the court ruled in Musk’s favor.

Neuralink

Main article: Neuralink

Musk discussing a Neuralink device during a live demonstration in 2020

In 2016, Elon Musk co-founded Neuralink, a neurotechnology startup, with an investment of $100 million. Neuralink’s mission is to merge the human brain with artificial intelligence (AI) by developing implantable devices that enhance brain functions and enable communication with machines. This technology aims to improve memory and interface directly with software, as well as treat neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and spinal cord injuries.

In 2019, Musk revealed that Neuralink was working on a device similar to a sewing machine capable of embedding threads into the human brain. Musk is listed as the sole author of an October 2019 paper detailing some of Neuralink’s research, a decision that reportedly upset some of the company’s researchers. During a live demonstration in 2020, Musk showcased an early device he described as “a Fitbit in your skull,” claiming it could eventually cure paralysis, deafness, blindness, and other disabilities. These claims were met with skepticism from neuroscientists and media, with MIT Technology Review calling them “highly speculative” and “neuroscience theater.” The demonstration featured a pig with a Neuralink implant that monitored neural activity related to smell. In 2022, Neuralink announced plans to begin clinical trials by the end of the year.

Neuralink has conducted extensive animal testing on macaque monkeys at the University of California, Davis’ Primate Research Center. In 2021, the company released a video showing a macaque playing the video game Pong using a Neuralink implant. However, these animal trials have led to controversy, with some monkeys dying as a result, prompting accusations of animal cruelty. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has claimed that Neuralink’s trials violated the Animal Welfare Act. Additionally, employees have reported that pressure from Elon Musk to speed up development has resulted in botched experiments and unnecessary animal deaths.

In 2022, a federal investigation was launched to examine possible animal welfare violations by Neuralink. Despite these issues, in September 2023, the company received approval to begin human trials and plans to conduct a six-year study.

The Boring Company

Main article: The Boring Company

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

In 2017, Elon Musk founded The Boring Company to construct tunnels for specialized, underground high-occupancy vehicles capable of traveling up to 150 miles per hour (240 km/h) to alleviate traffic congestion in major cities. Early in 2017, the company engaged with regulatory bodies and started building a “test trench” measuring 30 feet (9.1 m) wide, 50 feet (15 m) long, and 15 feet (4.6 m) deep on SpaceX’s property, as this location did not require permits.

In 2018, The Boring Company debuted a tunnel in Los Angeles, less than two miles (3.2 km) long, to journalists. This tunnel used Tesla Model X vehicles, but reports indicated a rough ride at suboptimal speeds.

Despite announcing two tunnel projects in 2018 for Chicago and West Los Angeles, both were subsequently canceled. However, a tunnel beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center was completed in early 2021, and local authorities have approved further expansions of this tunnel system. Additionally, in 2021, tunnel construction was approved for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Twitter / X

Elon Musk first expressed interest in acquiring Twitter as early as 2017, citing concerns over the platform’s stance on freedom of speech. His ex-wife, Talulah Riley, also advocated for him to purchase Twitter as a means to combat what she referred to as “woke-ism”. In January 2022, Musk began buying Twitter shares and steadily increased his stake to 9.2% by April, becoming the largest shareholder. The disclosure of Musk’s ownership triggered the largest intraday surge in Twitter’s stock price since its IPO in 2013.

On April 4, 2022, Musk agreed to terms that would see him appointed to Twitter’s board of directors, with an agreement not to acquire more than 14.9% of the company. However, just nine days later, on April 13, Musk surprised the market with a $43 billion offer to acquire 100% of Twitter’s shares at $54.20 per share, initiating a takeover bid. In response, Twitter’s board implemented a “poison pill” shareholder rights plan aimed at deterring any single investor from owning more than 15% of the company without board approval.

Despite the defensive maneuver, Musk completed his acquisition bid by the end of April, totaling approximately $44 billion. This included leveraging about $12.5 billion in loans against his Tesla stock and securing $21 billion through equity financing.

The day after Elon Musk’s acquisition deal with Twitter was announced, Tesla’s market value plummeted by over $100 billion in response. Shortly thereafter, Musk criticized Twitter executive Vijaya Gadde’s policies in a tweet to his 86 million followers, prompting some of his followers to engage in sexist and racist harassment directed at her.

Exactly one month after initially announcing the takeover bid, Musk declared that the deal was “on hold,” citing a report revealing that 5% of Twitter’s daily active users were spam accounts. Despite initially expressing commitment to the acquisition, Musk formally terminated the deal in July. In response, Twitter’s Board of Directors asserted their intention to hold him accountable to the agreement. Subsequently, on July 12, 2022, Twitter filed a lawsuit against Musk in the Chancery Court of Delaware for breaching the legally binding agreement to purchase the company.

However, Musk reversed course again in October 2022, offering to purchase Twitter at the previously agreed-upon price of $54.20 per share. The acquisition was ultimately completed on October 27, 2022.

Immediately following the acquisition, Musk initiated significant changes on Twitter. He dismissed several top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal, assuming the role of CEO himself. Musk introduced a $7.99 monthly subscription fee for a “blue check” verification badge and implemented substantial layoffs among the company’s workforce. Under Musk’s leadership, content moderation policies were relaxed, resulting in the reinstatement of accounts such as The Babylon Bee. In December, Musk publicly released internal documents related to Twitter’s moderation of the Hunter Biden laptop controversy during the 2020 presidential election.

Following Musk’s takeover, the Southern Poverty Law Center observed an increase in hate speech on the platform, noting Twitter’s verification of numerous extremist accounts.

Comments on the internal documents, referred to as the Twitter Files, were shared by journalists such as Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, Michael Shellenberger, and others on Twitter. These documents became a focal point of discussion and scrutiny on the platform.

On March 9, 2023, the United States House Committee on the Judiciary conducted hearings specifically addressing the revelations within the Twitter Files. During the hearings, both Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger provided testimony based on their insights into the content of these internal documents.

In late 2022, Elon Musk conducted a Twitter poll asking users whether he should step down as CEO of Twitter. Following the poll results, which indicated a majority in favor of him stepping down, Musk pledged to relinquish his CEO position. Five months later, Musk followed through on his promise and stepped down, appointing former NBCUniversal executive Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO. Musk transitioned to the roles of executive chairman and chief technology officer within the company.

On November 20, 2023, in a U.S. District Court in Texas, X filed a lawsuit alleging that Media Matters had engaged in manipulative practices on the X platform. According to the lawsuit, Media Matters purportedly utilized accounts that followed major brand accounts and engaged in continuous scrolling and refreshing of feeds until ads were displayed alongside extremist posts.

Leadership style

Musk gave a speech to SpaceX employees in 2012

Elon Musk is frequently described as a micromanager and has humorously referred to himself as a “nano-manager”. His management style has been characterized by The New York Times as absolutist, marked by a disdain for formal business plans. Musk is known for pushing his companies into ambitious, risky, and often costly projects against the advice of his advisors, such as the controversial decision to remove front-facing radar from Tesla Autopilot systems. His preference for vertical integration has led to most production being brought in-house, a strategy that achieved cost savings for SpaceX’s rockets but has resulted in significant usability challenges for Tesla’s software.

Musk’s approach to managing employees has been described as “carrot and stick”. He rewards those who offer constructive criticism but has also been reported to impulsively threaten, swear at, and dismiss employees. Musk expects intense dedication from his workforce, often setting expectations for long work hours, with reports of employees working up to 80 hours per week. He imposes strict non-disclosure agreements on new hires and has conducted mass layoffs during challenging periods, such as the notorious “production hell” of the Model 3 in 2018.

In 2022, amidst economic concerns, Musk announced plans to terminate 10 percent of Tesla’s employees. He also suspended remote work at SpaceX and Tesla, threatening dismissal for those not working a minimum of 40 hours per week in the office. In early 2024, Musk proceeded with further layoffs, affecting more than 10 percent of Tesla’s workforce.

Elon Musk’s leadership style is marked by his hands-on approach, ambitious goals, and stringent demands on his employees, reflecting both admiration for innovation and criticism for its demanding toll on those working under him.

Elon Musk’s leadership style elicits both praise and criticism. Supporters attribute Tesla’s success and his other ventures’ achievements to his visionary leadership. However, critics view Musk as callous, with managerial decisions that they perceive as demonstrating “a lack of human understanding.”

The 2021 book “Power Play” contains anecdotes portraying Musk as berating employees, highlighting a confrontational aspect of his leadership approach. Additionally, The Wall Street Journal reported on Musk’s decision to brand his vehicles as “self-driving,” which drew significant internal criticism from engineers. Engineers argued that Musk’s insistence on this branding could jeopardize customer safety, leading to resignations among staff who opposed the move.

These incidents underscore the polarizing nature of Musk’s leadership style, characterized by bold decision-making and a willingness to challenge conventional norms. While some applaud his innovative spirit and strategic acumen, others criticize what they perceive as a disregard for the human impact of his decisions, particularly in sensitive areas such as product safety and employee relations. As Elon Musk continues to navigate leadership challenges, his approach continues to provoke both admiration and controversy within the industry and among stakeholders.

Other activities

Musk Foundation

Elon Musk serves as the president of the Musk Foundation, which he established in 2001 with a stated mission encompassing several key areas. These include providing solar-power energy systems in disaster-stricken areas, supporting research, development, and advocacy in fields such as human space exploration, pediatrics, renewable energy, and safe artificial intelligence, as well as promoting science and engineering education initiatives.

Since its inception, the Musk Foundation has made a total of 350 donations, with approximately half directed toward scientific research or educational nonprofits. Notable beneficiaries of the foundation’s support include the Wikimedia Foundation, Elon Musk’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and his brother Kimbal’s nonprofit organization, Big Green. From 2002 to 2018, the foundation contributed $25 million directly to various nonprofit organizations, with nearly half of that amount allocated to Musk’s former nonprofit venture, OpenAI.

In a significant commitment to higher education, the foundation earmarked $100 million for establishing a new university in Texas from its donation funds.

In 2012, Elon Musk joined the Giving Pledge, committing to donate the majority of his wealth to charitable causes either during his lifetime or through his estate. He has also endowed prizes through the X Prize Foundation, including a $100 million award aimed at advancing carbon capture technology.

Despite its substantial contributions, the Musk Foundation has drawn scrutiny for its operational opacity and distribution practices. Vox noted the foundation’s minimalist website and described it as “strikingly opaque” in February 2021. Forbes assigned Musk a philanthropy score of 1 in 2020, highlighting that he had given away less than 1% of his net worth at the time.

In November 2021, regulatory filings revealed that Musk donated $5.7 billion worth of Tesla shares to charity, all of which went to the Musk Foundation, significantly bolstering its assets to $9.4 billion by the year’s end. In 2021, the foundation disbursed $160 million to nonprofit organizations.

However, reporting by The New York Times in 2022 revealed that the Musk Foundation had disbursed $230 million less than the minimum required to maintain tax-deductible status that year. Additionally, over half of the foundation’s funds in both 2021 and 2022 were directed toward causes associated with Elon Musk, his family, or his business ventures, raising questions about the foundation’s allocation practices and priorities.

Hyperloop

A tube part of the 2017 Hyperloop pod competition sponsored by SpaceX

In August 2013, Elon Musk unveiled plans for a revolutionary transportation concept known as the hyperloop, derived from his earlier idea of a vactrain—a vacuum tube train. Musk assigned a team of twelve engineers from SpaceX and Tesla to develop foundational concepts and initial designs for the Hyperloop.

Later that year, Musk publicly introduced the hyperloop concept through a detailed whitepaper published on the blogs of Tesla and SpaceX. The alpha design outlined a futuristic transport system that would operate within a vacuum tube, capable of achieving extremely high speeds over long distances. One of the proposed routes discussed was between the Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area, with an estimated construction cost of $6 billion. Musk suggested that if technologically feasible at the projected costs, hyperloop travel could potentially be more economical than any existing mode of transportation for such distances.

In 2015, Musk announced a competition inviting students and engineering teams to design and build Hyperloop pods for testing on a one-mile track sponsored by SpaceX. The Hyperloop pod competition spanned from 2015 to 2017, showcasing various innovative designs and technological advancements in pod transportation.

By January 2017, the SpaceX-sponsored hyperloop test track was operational, demonstrating the feasibility of the technology. Around the same time, Musk also disclosed plans for tunnel projects under The Boring Company, initially aimed at connecting locations like Hawthorne Municipal Airport.

In July 2017, Musk made headlines by claiming to have received “verbal government approval” to construct a hyperloop route linking New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. However, subsequent developments saw mentions of the DC-to-Baltimore leg removed from The Boring Company’s website by 2021, signaling shifts in project priorities and feasibility.

Despite initial enthusiasm, the tunnel project to Hawthorne was discontinued in 2022. Reports indicate that the site may be repurposed into parking facilities for SpaceX employees, marking a transition away from hyperloop infrastructure at that location.

Biographer Ashlee Vance highlighted Musk’s intent behind the hyperloop concept, noting that he aimed to challenge conventional high-speed train proposals in California and promote more innovative transportation solutions that could reshape public and legislative perspectives.

Elon Musk’s vision for the hyperloop remains an ambitious concept that continues to inspire discussions about the future of transportation, despite the challenges and adjustments encountered along its developmental journey.

OpenAI and xAI

In December 2015, Elon Musk co-founded OpenAI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence (AI) research organization dedicated to advancing artificial general intelligence (AGI) that is safe and beneficial for humanity. OpenAI’s mission includes democratizing access to powerful AI technologies and promoting their development for societal benefit rather than solely corporate or governmental control. Musk initially pledged $1 billion towards OpenAI’s funding goals.

However, by 2023, Musk revealed via Twitter that he had ultimately contributed $100 million to OpenAI, a figure later scrutinized by TechCrunch. According to their investigation, only $15 million of OpenAI’s funding could be definitively attributed to Musk, contrary to his public statements. Musk subsequently clarified that his donations totaled around $50 million.

In 2018, Musk chose to step down from the OpenAI board, citing potential conflicts of interest with his role as CEO of Tesla. This decision came as Tesla increasingly integrated AI technologies into its products, notably through advancements in Tesla Autopilot.

Since Musk’s departure, OpenAI has achieved notable milestones in AI research, most prominently developing advanced neural networks such as GPT-3, known for its ability to generate human-like text, and DALL-E, which creates images based on textual descriptions.

On July 12, 2023, Elon Musk launched another AI venture named xAI. Operating out of Nevada, xAI aims to develop generative AI programs that compete with existing technologies like ChatGPT. The company reportedly recruited talent from prominent tech firms such as Google and OpenAI and secured significant hardware resources, including 10,000 graphics processing units (GPUs). Funding for xAI has been sourced from investors associated with SpaceX and Tesla, underscoring Musk’s ongoing commitment to advancing AI capabilities through private enterprise initiatives.

Company towns

After 2020, Elon Musk and his companies acquired thousands of acres of land valued at $2.5 billion just outside Austin, Texas. Reports from the Wall Street Journal indicate that the project to develop a company town named Snailbrook in Bastrop County, Texas commenced in 2021.

Notably, Musk’s then-girlfriend, Grimes, and Kanye West were reportedly involved in the planning stages of Snailbrook. The name “Snailbrook” reflects The Boring Company’s ambitious goal of creating tunnel-boring machines that outpace the speed of a snail.

By 2023, Snailbrook reportedly had a population of 12 people. Plans for the community include establishing a school and a university, suggesting a long-term vision for the development. The initiative underscores Musk’s ongoing interest in creating innovative, sustainable living environments integrated with his technological ventures.

Wealth


In October 2002, Elon Musk realized a significant financial gain of $175.8 million when PayPal, the online payment company he co-founded, was acquired by eBay. This transaction marked a pivotal moment in Musk’s career, providing him with substantial resources to pursue his ambitious entrepreneurial ventures.

A decade later, in 2012, Elon Musk achieved another milestone when he was first listed on the Forbes Billionaires List. At that time, his net worth was estimated at $2 billion. This recognition underscored Musk’s growing influence and success in the realms of technology and entrepreneurship, setting the stage for his subsequent ventures that would redefine industries ranging from electric vehicles to space exploration.

Personal views and Twitter usage

Since joining Twitter in 2009 (now known as X), Elon Musk has been an active and influential presence on the platform, amassing over 163 million followers as of November 2023. Musk uses Twitter to share memes, promote his business ventures, and express his views on a wide range of political and cultural topics.

However, Musk’s tweets have often sparked controversy and drawn criticism. He has been known to provoke debate with statements mocking preferred gender pronouns and drawing comparisons, such as likening Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Adolf Hitler. These remarks have fueled intense public scrutiny and debate about the appropriateness of his comments.

According to The New York Times, Musk’s impact on international relations has been described as “chaotic”. Critics argue that there is a blurred line between Musk’s personal opinions and his business interests, especially considering his dual role as CEO of X (formerly Twitter).

During his tenure as CEO, Musk has been accused of spreading misinformation and endorsing right-wing conspiracy theories. For instance, he suggested that online information linking mass murderer Mauricio Garcia to Nazism could have been part of a psychological operation (psyop). These actions have heightened concerns about his influence on public discourse and the platform’s content moderation practices.

Furthermore, allegations of transphobia have surfaced in response to decisions made by X under Musk’s leadership. Critics argue that his handling of sensitive issues on the platform has exacerbated tensions and raised questions about inclusivity and respect for diverse viewpoints.

Despite these controversies, Musk’s presence on X remains a focal point for discussions on technology, society, and governance, reflecting his significant impact on digital communication and public discourse in the 21st century.

Finance

Elon Musk has been vocal about his stance against government subsidies for companies, advocating instead for a carbon tax to discourage environmentally detrimental practices. He believes that the free market should dictate outcomes, asserting that companies producing environmentally unfriendly vehicles should face consequences for their actions.

Interestingly, despite Musk’s public opposition to subsidies, Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer he leads, has benefited significantly from government incentives. Tesla has received billions of dollars in subsidies, including substantial sums from government-mandated zero-emissions credits in California and at the federal level in the United States. These credits have played a crucial role in making Tesla’s battery electric vehicles price-competitive compared to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, thereby boosting initial consumer adoption.

Moreover, Tesla generates substantial revenue from the sale of carbon credits. These credits are obtained through participation in environmental trading schemes like the European Union Emissions Trading System and the Chinese national carbon trading scheme, underscoring Tesla’s strategic approach to leveraging regulatory frameworks to its financial advantage.

In addition to his views on subsidies and environmental policies, Musk has been a longstanding critic of short-selling in financial markets. He has argued vehemently against the practice, suggesting it should be made illegal. Musk’s opposition to short-selling is rooted in his belief that short sellers have a financial incentive to publicize negative information about his companies, potentially impacting stock prices and investor sentiment.

Musk’s influence in financial markets was evident in early 2021 when he openly supported the GameStop short squeeze, a phenomenon where retail investors coordinated to drive up the stock price of GameStop, frustrating institutional short sellers.

However, Musk’s financial decisions have occasionally drawn scrutiny. In December 2022, despite earlier pledges not to sell additional shares, Musk sold $3.6 billion worth of Tesla stock, equivalent to 22 million shares. This move sparked discussion and speculation within the financial community, highlighting the complexities of Musk’s approach to managing his wealth and Tesla’s corporate strategy amidst evolving market conditions.

Technology

Elon Musk’s stance on cryptocurrencies has been notable for its impact on financial markets and public discourse. Musk has actively promoted cryptocurrencies, advocating their use over traditional government-issued fiat currencies. His influential tweets have often been credited with moving cryptocurrency prices, leading some, like economist Nouriel Roubini, to accuse him of market manipulation.

Musk’s public endorsements of cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin and Dogecoin, have coincided with significant increases in their market values. Tesla’s announcement in 2021 that it had purchased $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin added to this perception, especially given Musk’s outspoken support on social media.

However, Tesla’s subsequent announcement that it would accept Bitcoin as payment for its vehicles drew criticism from environmentalists and investors alike. The primary concern was the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining, which consumes vast amounts of energy, primarily sourced from fossil fuels. This contradiction led to scrutiny over Tesla’s environmental commitments under Musk’s leadership.

In response to mounting pressure, Musk announced on Twitter a few months later that Tesla would suspend Bitcoin transactions due to environmental concerns. He stated that Tesla would refrain from accepting Bitcoin until mining operations transitioned to more sustainable energy sources, highlighting his acknowledgment of cryptocurrency’s environmental footprint.

Despite Musk’s involvement in innovative transportation solutions through The Boring Company, which focuses on underground transit systems, he has been critical of traditional public transport. Musk has advocated for individualized transport, emphasizing private vehicles over public transit options. His comments have been labeled as elitist and have sparked criticism from transportation and urban planning experts.

Critics argue that public transportation is more economical, energy-efficient, and space-effective in dense urban environments compared to private cars. They contend that promoting individualized transport could exacerbate urban congestion and environmental challenges, contrary to sustainable urban development goals.

Musk’s divergent approaches to cryptocurrencies and public transport reflect his influence on technological innovation and societal norms, sparking debates about the balance between individual preferences, environmental sustainability, and public welfare in the modern era.

COVID-19

Elon Musk faced significant criticism for his public statements and actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, with accusations of spreading misinformation and disregarding public health guidelines.

Early in the pandemic, Musk made controversial remarks downplaying the severity of COVID-19. He referred to the coronavirus as a “specific form of the common cold” and predicted that the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. would remain minimal, assertions that were widely criticized as inaccurate. Musk also falsely claimed that children were “essentially immune” to COVID-19, contrary to medical evidence.

Musk criticized COVID-19 lockdown measures and initially resisted closing Tesla’s Fremont Factory in March 2020, despite local shelter-in-place orders. In May 2020, he reopened the factory against the local stay-at-home order, warning employees that they risked losing pay and unemployment benefits if they didn’t return to work.

Throughout the pandemic, Musk’s public statements continued to attract controversy. In December 2022, he called for the prosecution of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, further escalating his confrontational stance towards pandemic response measures.

Amid criticism, Musk pledged in March 2020 that Tesla would manufacture ventilators if there was a shortage, although ultimately, Tesla ended up donating BiPAP and CPAP machines instead, devices different from the more complex mechanical ventilators needed for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Musk’s personal stance on COVID-19 vaccines also drew attention. In September 2020, he announced he wouldn’t get vaccinated, asserting that neither he nor his children were at risk for COVID-19. However, in December 2021, he disclosed receiving the vaccine himself and for his eligible children, citing the scientific evidence supporting the vaccine’s efficacy while maintaining his opposition to vaccine mandates.

Musk’s handling of COVID-19-related issues reflected his controversial approach to public health recommendations and his willingness to challenge conventional wisdom, sparking debates about the responsibilities of public figures in times of global health crises.

Personal life

Elon Musk

In 2002, Elon Musk became a U.S. citizen, solidifying his ties to the country where he would later establish his most prominent ventures. For nearly two decades, from the early 2000s until late 2020, Musk resided primarily in California, a state pivotal to the founding and growth of Tesla and SpaceX. However, citing California’s perceived complacency with its economic success, Musk decided to relocate to Austin, Texas, in a high-profile move that underscored his dissatisfaction with the regulatory environment and business climate of Silicon Valley.

During his hosting stint on Saturday Night Live in 2021, Musk publicly disclosed that he identifies with Asperger syndrome, although he clarified that he had never been formally diagnosed. Despite this, Musk has been supportive of initiatives aimed at enhancing the lives of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Tesla, under his leadership, has introduced sensory-friendly and quieter vehicle options tailored to accommodate individuals with sensory sensitivities associated with ASD. Additionally, the Musk Foundation, which Musk established in 2001, has provided substantial funding for autism research and support programs.

In a significant health scare during a South African safari in the late 2000s, Musk contracted malaria and required hospitalization in an intensive care unit upon his return to California. This experience underscored the dangers associated with diseases prevalent in certain parts of the world.

Musk has also pursued personal interests outside of his professional endeavors. He trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, reportedly in preparation for a proposed bout with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, highlighting his active engagement in physical pursuits beyond his role as a tech entrepreneur. In his leisure time, Musk enjoys playing video games such as Quake, Diablo IV, Elden Ring, and Polytopia, showcasing his interest in gaming as a recreational activity.

Regarding mental health, Musk has publicly mentioned his occasional use of ketamine to alleviate symptoms of depression. While he has acknowledged its therapeutic benefits for his condition, allegations from the Wall Street Journal have suggested that Musk may engage in recreational use of ketamine and other substances, a claim he has not publicly addressed beyond his medicinal use.

Elon Musk’s diverse interests, from technology and space exploration to personal health and recreational activities, continue to shape his public image and influence his ventures in innovative and sometimes controversial ways.

Relationships and children

Elon Musk’s personal life has been marked by relationships, children, and occasional controversies. Musk, who has 10 surviving children, began his family life with Canadian author Justine Wilson, whom he met while studying at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. They married in 2000 but faced tragedy in 2002 when their first child died of sudden infant death syndrome at just 10 weeks old. Following this loss, the couple turned to in vitro fertilization (IVF) to expand their family, welcoming twins in 2004 and triplets in 2006. Musk and Wilson divorced in 2008 but continued to share custody of their children.

In a poignant development in 2022, Musk’s eldest twin announced her gender identity as a trans woman and officially changed her name to reflect this identity, adopting Wilson as her last name to distance herself from Musk. Musk attributed their estrangement to what he described as the influence of “neo-Marxists” in elite educational institutions.

Subsequently, Musk began dating English actress Talulah Riley in 2008, leading to their marriage in 2010 at Dornoch Cathedral in Scotland. Their relationship, however, was tumultuous, marked by divorce filings in 2012, a brief remarriage in 2013, and ultimately, a final divorce in 2016.

In 2017, Musk briefly dated actress Amber Heard, but it was his relationship with Canadian musician Grimes that gained significant attention in 2018. Grimes gave birth to their first child, a son, in May 2020. The couple initially chose a name for their son that did not comply with California regulations, prompting them to revise it to adhere to legal standards.

Their relationship encountered turbulence, with reports of a “semi-separated” status in September 2021, confirmed by Musk’s declaration of being single in a December 2021 interview with Time. Despite this, Grimes referred to Musk as her boyfriend in early 2022, although she later tweeted about another breakup in March 2022. In September 2023, reports surfaced that Musk and Grimes had welcomed their third child, a son. However, in October 2023, Grimes filed a lawsuit against Musk regarding parental rights and custody of their eldest son.

In a surprising revelation in July 2022, court documents disclosed that Musk had fathered twins with Shivon Zilis, who served as director of operations and special projects at Neuralink. The timing of their birth, just weeks before Musk and Grimes welcomed their second child via surrogate in December 2021, raised ethical questions about workplace conduct, given Zilis’s professional relationship with Musk.

Additionally, in July 2022, The Wall Street Journal reported allegations of an affair between Musk and Nicole Shanahan, wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, in 2021, which reportedly contributed to Shanahan and Brin’s subsequent divorce. Musk denied these allegations. Musk’s romantic involvements have also included Australian actress Natasha Bassett, described as an occasional girlfriend.

Elon Musk’s personal relationships, characterized by highs and lows, continue to attract public and media scrutiny, reflecting the complexities of his private life amid his high-profile career in technology and entrepreneurship.

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