OpinionsEcon 101Who is Elon Musk?

Who is Elon Musk?


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Love him or hate him,  everyone is amazed at the huge cultural significance of Elon Musk, the world’s most talked about business leader, due to his extraordinary professional achievements, his outspoken views, and his colorful personal life.

Elon Reeve Musk, a citizen of South Africa, Canada and the United States, is the wealthiest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$219 billion as of November 2023, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, and $241 billion according to Forbes, primarily from his ownership stakes in Tesla and SpaceX, and named him America’s Most Innovative Leader.

He co-founded six companies, including electric car maker Tesla, rocket producer SpaceX, and tunneling startup Boring Company, has repeatedly described himself as “cash poor”, and has “professed to have little interest in the material trappings of wealth”.

In May 2020, he pledged to sell almost all physical possessions, and has defended his wealth by saying he is accumulating resources for humanity’s outward expansion to space. He is a visionary who wants to put people on Mars.

In 2019, Forbes named him America’s Most Innovative Leader. Musk is outspoken in his opinions on politics, climate change, as well as tech, space exploration, Artificial Intelligence, which has sometimes stirred controversy, and raised his profile as a public figure.

Against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war, Elon Musk traveled to Israel, and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, touring the scene of a Hamas attack in a visit that appeared aimed at calming the outcry over his endorsement of an anti-semitic conspiracy theory on X (formerly Twitter), the social media platform he owns.

Dozens of major brands suspended their advertising on X, and the flight of advertisers threatened to cost X tens of millions of dollars, and the White House has denounced Mr. Musk for his “abhorrent promotion of anti-semitic and racist hate.”

Musk left South Africa at the age of 17 to avoid compulsory military service.

In the book Rocketeers, Musk explained, “I don’t have an issue with serving in the military per se, but serving in the South African army suppressing black people just didn’t seem like a really good way to spend time.”

After living close to relatives in Canada, he went to the University of Pennsylvania on a scholarship where he received two degrees in business and physics. He chose to settle in the US because, he said, “It is where great things are possible. I am nauseatingly pro-American.”

A frequent criticism made of Musk as a leader is that he lacks empathy.

Musk himself has revealed, however, that he has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum condition that results in people having difficulty relating to others.

Yet, the fact that Musk has ASC also helps to explain some of his notable strengths, including his remarkable focus and persistence, and his strong attention to detail.

In a BBC documentary last year, Dolly Singh, former head of talent at SpaceX, described Musk as “arguably the best leader on the face of the planet”.

Agree or disagree?


Author’s email: [email protected]


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