Who is Elon Musk and what is his net worth? (2024)

ByNatalie Sherman & Dearbail Jordan,BBC business reporters

Who is Elon Musk and what is his net worth? (1)Who is Elon Musk and what is his net worth? (2)Getty Images

It seems like not a day goes by without billionaire Elon Musk making headlines.

The boss of X (formerly Twitter), Tesla and SpaceX is the world's richest person and uses his platform to make his views known on a vast array of topics.

He has also charged ahead with human brain chip trials at his firm Neuralink, played with turning X into a super app and tried to play a bigger role in the fast-growing world of artificial intelligence, despite having warned it could lead to humanity's extinction.

In late February 2024 he sued OpenAI and its chief executive Sam Altman, saying the firm he helped co-found had reneged on its non-profit, open source origins by hitching its wagon to Microsoft.

Where was Elon Musk born?

Since bursting on to the Silicon Valley scene more than two decades ago, the 52-year-old serial entrepreneur has kept the public captivated with his business antics.

Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Mr Musk showed his talents for entrepreneurship early, going door-to-door with his brother selling homemade chocolate Easter eggs and developing his first computer game at the age of 12.

He has described his childhood as difficult, affected by his parents' divorce, bullying at school and his own difficulty picking up on social cues because of Asperger's Syndrome. At the earliest opportunity, he left home for college, moving to Canada and then the US, where he studied economics and physics at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League college.

In a 2010 essay for Marie Claire, his first wife, Justine Musk, a writer whom he met in college and married in 2000, wrote that even before making his millions Mr Musk was "not a man who takes no for an answer".

"The will to compete and dominate, that made him so successful in business, did not magically shut off when he came home," she recalled, adding that he told her while dancing at their wedding, "I am the alpha in this relationship."

How did Elon Musk make his money?

After being accepted to a physics graduate degree programme at Stanford University, Mr Musk quickly dropped out and founded two technology start-ups during the "dotcom boom" of the 1990s. These included a web software firm and an online banking company that eventually became PayPal, which was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5bn.

He ploughed his fortune into a new rocket company, SpaceX - which he aimed to make a cost-effective alternative to Nasa - and a new electric car company, Tesla, where he chaired the board until becoming chief executive in 2008.

Who is Elon Musk and what is his net worth? (3)Who is Elon Musk and what is his net worth? (4)Getty Images

The two firms are credited with upending their industries, even as they sometimes veered close to financial collapse.

More recent business ventures include his takeover of social media platform Twitter in October 2022.

Since then he has dramatically reduced the size of its workforce including, controversially, cuts to teams responsible for keeping the platform safe; rebranded the company as X; and introduced new premium subscriptions so that the business does not rely on advertising alone for income.

Mr Musk's long-term ambition is for X to become an "everything app" offering a range of services. However, so far the value of the firm has plunged from the $44bn he originally paid to just $19bn, according to reports.

He also has ambitions in the AI sector, being an early investor in ChatGPT's parent company, before parting ways and setting up his own company xAI in July, whose mission is "to understand the true nature of the universe".

"I'm never hugely convinced that he knows what he wants to do tomorrow," says journalist Chris Stokel-Walker. "He very much leads by instinct."

In a 2015 biography, author Ashlee Vance described Mr Musk as "a confrontational know-it-all" with an "abundant ego". But he also called him an awkward dancer and diffident public speaker.

In the press, he's been dubbed both a mad genius and Twitter's biggest troll - known as much for his lofty ambitions as his petty fights, not to mention the more serious lawsuits he and his companies have faced from regulators, investors and others over issues such as racial discrimination and the trustworthiness of his claims.

Divorced three times - twice from the same woman, British actress Talulah Riley - Mr Musk is frank about his faults.

"If you list my sins, I sound like the worst person on Earth," Mr Musk said in a TED interview last year. "But if you put those against the things I've done right, it makes much more sense."

What is Elon Musk's net worth?

All those contradictions appear to be part of Mr Musk's appeal - and it certainly hasn't stopped him amassing a fortune.

Bloomberg ranks him as the world's richest person, estimating his net worth to be around $215bn (£170bn) as of 1 March 2024.

That's based largely on the value of his shares in Tesla, of which he owns more than 13%. The company's stock soared in value - some say unreasonably - in 2020 as the firm's output increased and it started to deliver regular profits.

The shares plunged at the end of 2022, with some blaming the distraction of the Twitter takeover for the fall, though they have since recovered ground.

Who is Elon Musk and what is his net worth? (5)Who is Elon Musk and what is his net worth? (6)Getty Images

Mr Musk also champions digital currencies and has a hand in several other smaller companies, including tunnel-maker the Boring Company and experimental brain-computer start-up Neuralink.

Mr Musk, who wears the mantle of a workaholic proudly, has often said he's not in business simply to make money - claims he repeated recently with regard to his Twitter takeover.

"Elon only gets involved with things if he feels that they're critically important for some reason... for the sake of society or humanity," says friend and Tesla investor Ross Gerber.

What are Elon Musk's political views?

Mr Musk, who became a US citizen in 2002, has resisted efforts to label his politics - calling himself "half-Democrat, half-Republican", "politically moderate" and "independent".

That doesn't mean he's shied away from political debate.

He has injected himself into some of the world's hottest geopolitical fights - suggesting that China should establish a "special administrative zone" in Taiwan, and proposing terms to resolve the war in Ukraine that were adamantly rejected by many of the country's top leaders.

While Mr Musk provided his Starlink satellite internet service to Ukraine, he has also attracted criticism for refusing an emergency request from Kyiv to activate Starlink in Sevastopol, home to a major Russian navy port.

In the US, he moved to Texas, complaining of California's regulations and high taxes; has clashed with union organisers; and, in the spring of 2020, decried coronavirus lockdowns as "fascist".

Who is Elon Musk and what is his net worth? (7)Who is Elon Musk and what is his net worth? (8)Getty Images

He was one of the first business executives to part ways with former President Donald Trump, quitting a White House business council after Mr Trump withdrew the US from a global climate agreement.

But he's also made it clear he's not a fan of President Joe Biden, whom he sees as snubbing Tesla while promoting electric vehicles.

He has said that he sees his businesses as a form of philanthropy, because they are focused on solving major human issues, such as climate change in the case of Tesla.

And despite his own interest in artificial intelligence, he has also been one of the most prominent figures worried about the supposed threat to humanity's future that super-intelligent AIs might pose.

He has claimed that the rise of artificial intelligence, combined with a declining birth rate, could result in "not enough people" being in the world.

Here, you can't accuse him of not doing his part.

Mr Musk has had 11 children - six with his first wife, three with Canadian singer Grimes, and two with Shivon Zilis.

Following the birth of his twins with Ms Zilis, he tweeted: "Doing my best to help the underpopulation crisis."

Additional reporting by Liv McMahon

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Elon Musk




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