How Elon Musk became the richest man in the world

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is now the richest man in the world with a net worth of over $195 billion, slightly higher than Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos on $185 billion.

Musk’s rise to the top of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index was the fastest in history, with Musk having started 2020 with a net worth of only $27 billion.

This exceptional performance was fuelled by a tremendous rally in Tesla’s share price which surged 743% last year.

Musk took over as Tesla CEO in 2008 and helped to take the company public on 29 June 2010 with a share price of $17.00

Tesla shares have gained more than 23,900% since its 2010 initial public offering (IPO). As a 20.7% shareholder in the company, Musk’s wealth grew along with Tesla’s share price.

Over the past year, the South Africa-born Musk has added more than $165 billion to his fortune in what is probably the fastest bout of wealth creation in history.

Musk, however, does not seem overly interested in topping the rich-list or in accumulating valuable possessions.

“You should ask why I would want money. The reason is not what you think. I have very little time for recreation. I don’t have vacation homes or yachts or anything like that,” he said.

Instead, half of his money is intended to help problems on earth and the other half to help establish a self-sustaining city on Mars.

The Mars plans, Musk said, was to ensure the continuation of life in case Earth gets hit by a meteor or World War 3 happens and we destroy ourselves.

Last year, Musk also started to sell his real estate, which included numerous mansions in California.

He has now moved to Texas, where Tesla and SpaceX have operations, after a disagreement with California state officials over restrictions related to COVID-19.

Here is a look at Musk’s long career in the technology industry and how he became the richest man in the world.

Elon Musk was born in Pretoria on 28 June 1971. His mother is Maye Musk, a model from Canada.

Musk family headline

Musk attended Waterkloof House Preparatory School, Bryanston High School, and completed his matric at Pretoria Boys High School.

Pretoria Boys High headline

Elon Musk moved to Canada, and later the United States, just before his eighteenth birthday after obtaining a Canadian passport through his mother.

Musk attended the University of Pretoria for five months before leaving South Africa. He then entered Queen’s University in Canada in 1989.


He left Canada in 1992 to study economics and physics at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the Wharton School and a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics from the College of Arts and Sciences.


Musk was accepted to a Ph.D. program in energy physics and materials science at Stanford University in California, but dropped out after just two days to launch an Internet start-up.

In 1995, Elon, his brother Kimbal, and Greg Kouri started Zip2, a web software company based in a small rented office in Palo Alto. Zip2 developed and marketed an Internet city guide for the newspaper publishing industry, with maps, directions, and yellow pages. Compaq bought Zip2 for US$307 million in February 1999, and Elon Musk received US$22 million for his share.

Elon and Kimbal Musk

In March 1999, Musk co-founded online financial services and e-mail payment company One year later, merged with Confinity, which had a money-transfer service called PayPal. Musk was ousted as CEO in October 2000 and the merged company was renamed PayPal in 2001. In 2017, Musk purchased the domain from PayPal because it had sentimental value to him.

PayPal was acquired by eBay in October 2002 for $1.5 billion in stock. Musk said his proceeds from the PayPal acquisition were $180 million. He put $100 million in SpaceX, $70m in Tesla, and $10m in Solar City.

Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 with the aim of building spacecraft for commercial space travel. SpaceX established itself as a big player in space missions and by 2008 it was awarded a NASA contract for cargo transport to the International Space Station.

Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning and was named after inventor Nikola Tesla. Musk joined the company in 2004 as chairman after investing $6.3 million in Tesla stocks during a Series A round of investment.

Tesla headline

Elon Musk served as Tesla CEO since 2008 and has been the driving force behind the company’s success.

Elon Musk

A prototype of Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, was first revealed in 2006 and was officially launched in 2008. The Tesla Roadster unveiled the automaker’s cutting-edge battery technology and electric powertrain.

The Roadster was followed by all-electric Model S sedan, the Model X sport-utility vehicle, and the more affordable Model 3.

New Tesla Model S

Tesla expanded beyond an automaker through its unique set of energy solutions, which include the Powerwall, Powerpack, and Solar Roof.

Tesla Powerwall headline image

Tesla first listed on the Nasdaq in June 2010 at $17 a share, which raised $226 million. The share price doubled in the next three years and continued to make steady gains.

In January 2017, Musk launched The Boring Company which is focused on building tunnels to reduce traffic.

The Boring Company

Tesla’s share price increased rapidly over the last year which pushed its market cap to over $773 billion. This helped to increase Elon Musk’s net wealth to $195 billion.

Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk talks about Tesla's new battery swapping program in Hawthorne, California June 20, 2013. REUTERS Lucy Nicholson

Now read: Tesla is now more valuable than 12 top automakers combined

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How Elon Musk became the richest man in the world