17 May 2021, Brandenburg, Grünheide: Elon Musk, T
Elon Musk, at a 17 May 2021 visit to Brandenburg. (Photo by Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)
  • Elon Musk is now very rich.
  • Very, very rich.
  • Extremely very rich, even.
  • Things his wealth could do include keeping the entire South African government running for two years, single-handedly, without bankrupting himself.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

This week, the personal fortune of the South African born car CEO and space entrepreneur Elon Musk hit the equivalent of R4.25 trillion.

Just a couple of days before, Musk was worth a mere R3.7 trillion after a surge in the share price of electric car company Tesla, in which he holds a large stake. But when car rental company Hertz placed the single largest order ever for electric vehicles, Tesla's share price went wild, valuing the company at above $1 trillion.

Very few companies have hit that mark, and only Facebook has done it faster. While Tesla went from founding to $1 trillion in 18 years, it took Amazon 24 years, Apple 44 years, and Microsoft 46 years.

For Musk, that meant the largest one-day gain ever recorded in the authoritative Bloomberg index of the richest people: R530 billion added to his net worth in under 24 hours. That was in part because Tesla's eye-popping valuation unlocked more shares for Musk, under a complex remuneration package that awards him large chunks of equity in the company as it hits production and value targets.

At roughly 20%, Musk owns a far bigger chunk of Tesla than Jeff Bezos owns of Amazon, which puts Bezos firmly in second place on the list of the richest people in the world. Musk is worth more than numbers two and three, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, combined.

See also | You could get as rich as Elon Musk on a South African salary – in 15 million years

At $288.6 billion, Musk is personally worth more than Toyota. He could also buy the top 20 companies in South Africa without tapping the last of his reserves.

But his wealth is so astronomical that it is better expressed in terms of, say, South Africa's national budget.

As medium-term forecasts currently stand, Musk's trillions would be enough to cover South Africa's consolidated state spending for two years. That would include paying all civil servants, funding bailouts for Eskom and SAA, building roads and schools, maintaining the military, paying for education and healthcare, and making social grant payments.

By the end of those two years, Musk would still be richer than South Africa's richest person, Nicky Oppenheimer.

Musk has said he is gathering personal wealth in order to fund his ultimate mission: ensuring the safety of the human race by making life multi-planetary, through the colonisation of Mars.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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