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Forecasters predicted this week that tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is on course to become a trillionaire by 2024, a feat never achieved by a human being before.
A report published this week, called the Trillion Dollar Club used data to predict the future wealth of the richest 30 people in the world. The report found that on his current investment trajectory Musk is on course to hit the trillion dollar mark by 2024, followed a year later by Gautam Adani, CEO of the Adani Group.
Despite these speculative reports, Musk and his companies have had a rocky few months. Tech stocks declined sharply in May, leaving the richest man in the world, down from $340 billion in November to $206 billion this month.
Still he’s doing alright, The SpaceX founder and Tesla boss, 49, leads the billionaire pack by almost $100 billion, with LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault trailing in his wake with a comparatively modest $137 billion, followed by Amazon owner Jeff Bezos $128 billion and Microsoft founder Bill Gates $121 billion.
Musk’s meteoric climb to the top of the billionaire ladder happened almost overnight, in October 2021, thanks to a pandemic-driven tech share boom, which saw Tesla shares jump to an increase of almost $10 billion a day. Musk’s newly acquired net worth of $300 billion christened him the richest man in the history of this planet.
To give this landmark some perspective, Musk’s wealth was greater than the annual GDP of Finland.
In May, Musk’s net worth soared to even greater heights, peaking in November at just over $340 billion, before slipping down to a paltry $197 billion last week, according to Bloomberg.
Part of the reason behind Tesla’s fall in value is tied up with Musk’s 9.2 per cent stake in Twitter, which he purchased in April, sewing fears in investors about his continued commitment to the car manufacturer.
Musk, who owns 20 per cent of Tesla’s shares, was the 35th richest person in world at the start of 2020. He launched his career as one of the co-founders of PayPal in 2000 and also owns the rocket-ship company SpaceX, which is transporting astronauts to the International Space Station in a deal with Nasa.
Musk has previously said he intends to use half his wealth to “help problems on Earth” and “half to help establish a self-sustaining city on Mars to ensure continuation of life (of all species) in case Earth gets hit by a meteor like the dinosaurs or WW3 happens & we destroy ourselves”.
In a series of tweets pinned to the top of his timeline, the billionaire said the reason why he wants lots of money was “not what you think”. He said he had “very little time for recreation” and doesn’t have “vacation homes or yachts or anything like that”.
But what else do we know the South African billionaire (soon to be trillionaire?)? From being bullied as a schoolboy to children’s very unusual names, here are 30 surprising facts about the real-life Tony Stark.
1. Musk was born in Pretoria on June 28 1971 to Errol, a wealthy South African engineer, pilot and sailor, and Maye, a Canadian dietician and model, on the day the US Supreme Court overturned Muhammad Ali’s conviction for evading the draft.
2. He is worth a reported $206 billion (£170bn), $78 billion more than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
3. Musk is 6’2”, eight inches taller than Bezos.
4. Musk’s IQ is estimated as 155. Jeff Bezos’s IQ is unknown.
5. Musk has never accepted a salary from Tesla - he’s opted for equity-based compensation plans instead. When he left South Africa to study in the US, Musk lived on $1 a day, largely by buying hot dogs and oranges in bulk.
6. When Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket broke out of earth’s atmosphere last year, Nasa astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley became the 567th and 568th people to go into space (according to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale definition of spaceflight as any flight higher than 100km, or 62 miles: the US recognises some lower flights).
7. In May last year nearly $15 billion was wiped off Tesla’s valuation after Musk tweeted that its stock price was “too high”.
8. His younger brother Kimbal is the owner of an American restaurant company, the Kitchen Restaurant Group. His younger sister Tosca is a filmmaker.
9. All three siblings share the middle name Reeve, although a Change.org petition was launched in 2016 suggesting that Elon should change his middle name to “Gated”. The petition gained five supporters.
10. Musk was so quiet as a boy his parents briefly believed he might be deaf.
11. He and Kimbal and their cousins made pocket money as children selling homemade chocolate Easter eggs door-to-door in rich neighbourhoods.
12. Reportedly, Musk read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica aged nine and he was a huge Dungeons and Dragons fan. Unfortunately, if he ever writes his autobiography, he can’t call it Nerd Do Well, the title of Simon Pegg’s.
13. As the youngest and smallest boy in his primary school class, Musk suffered horrendous bullying. He was hospitalised after a gang of boys pushed him down a flight of stairs and said he was “almost beaten to death” on one occasion. At 15, He learned karate, judo and wrestling and the bullying ceased.
14. His father Errol Musk was once tried for manslaughter and acquitted after shooting dead three men who attempted to break into his Johannesburg mansion.
15. In 2017 Errol had a son with his stepdaughter Jana Bezuidenhout, 40 years his junior, some years after divorcing her mother Heidi. Elon has described his father as “evil” and they are estranged.
16. Musk taught himself to write computer code at the age of 12, creating a video game called Blastar which he sold for $500 to PC and Office Technology magazine.
17. Musk met his first wife, sci-fi writer Justine Wilson, when they were students at Ontario’s Queen’s University and they married in 2000. After the death of their first child, Nevada, from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at the age of 10 weeks in 2002, they conceived twins Griffin and Xavier in 2004, and then triplets Kai, Saxon and Damian in 2006, through IVF.
18. Musk’s son Xavier is named after Professor Xavier in X-Men. Tesla is named after Serbian-American inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. Had Tesla failed to secure the rights to the name, Musk claims the company would have been called Faraday, after British scientist Michael Faraday, who was born in what is now Elephant and Castle in 1791. SpaceX’s Falcon rockets are named after the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.
19. After gaining degrees in economics and physics from the University of Pennsylvania, Musk enrolled on a postgraduate degree in physics at Stanford but dropped out after two days to ride the wave of the dotcom boom.
20. He sold his first software company Zip2, which he co-founded with Kimbal, for more than $300 million in 1999 and the same year co-founded online bank X.com, which went on to become PayPal. In 2002, eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion. He founded SpaceX in 2002 and joined Tesla in 2004 as chairman, having helped fund the company. He has since founded AI and neuroscience companies and a tunnelling business called The Boring Company to dig tubes aimed at improving the movement of cars and creating a new high-speed public transport system called the Hyperloop. “I think public transport is painful. It sucks,” he told Wired.
21. He allegedly once told a potential investor: “My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku [ritually disembowel himself] than fail.”
22. Musk agreed to serve on two business councils for Donald Trump in 2017 but resigned from both the same year in protest at Trump withdrawing the US from the Paris agreement on climate change.
23. Robert Downey Jr famously based his portrayal of Tony “Iron Man” Stark in the Marvel Avengers movies on Musk. However, Stan Lee originally based Tony Stark on Howard Hughes, whom he described as “an inventor, an adventurer, a multi-billionaire, a ladies’ man, and finally a nutcase”.
24. Musk makes a cameo appearance in Iron Man 2 and has also appeared as himself in The Simpsons, Big Bang Theory and South Park.
25. In 2013 Musk bought “Wet Nellie”, the customised Lotus Esprit from the 1976 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, which he said was an inspiration for Tesla cars.
26. The launch of the Tesla Cybertruck took place on November 2019, the month and year in which Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is set.
27. In 2018 Musk used his own Tesla sportscar as the payload for the successful launch of his Falcon Heavy rocket, with a dummy called Starman in the driving seat, with Bowie’s Space Oddity and Life on Mars on the hi-fi. The car is now in orbit around the sun. You can track it on whereisroadster.com, which also notes that the car has exceeded its 36,000-mile warranty over 31,000 times.
28. Musk was made a Member of the Most Admirable Order of Direkgunabhorn (fifth class) by the King of Thailand for his efforts to free 12 boys trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave in 2018, with a mini-submarine (although this was somewhat overshadowed by a dispute with British caver Vernon Unsworth, an adviser on the rescue, in which he called Unsworth a “pedo guy” on Twitter). Musk later won the defamation case.
29. Musk met his second wife, actress Tallulah Riley, in Mayfair’s Whisky Mist nightclub in 2008, and proposed to her the same year. They married in 2010, divorced in 2012, remarried in 2013 and divorced again in 2016.
30. Although Musk and his former partner, the singer Grimes, called their baby boy X Æ A-12 (later modifying it to X Æ A-Xii to comply with California’s legal guidelines), they apparently refer to him as “Little X”. In March 2022 the couple welcomed a baby girl, calling their second child Exa Dark Sideræl Musk, nicknamed “Y”.