How did Elon Musk get so rich? Tesla and SpaceX billionaire's journey to wealthiest man in the world

Elon Musk has split with Grimes, the mother of their son, named X Æ A-Xii. . Credit: AP

A single tweet from Elon Musk can move world markets.

The Tesla and SpaceX founder's net worth is an estimated £243 billion.

The 50-year-old entrepreneur may already be the richest person on Earth - but now he has his sights set on the stars.

Musk's part in the 'billionaire space race' fellow rich-listers Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson to realise their space tourism ambitions has drawn praise and controversy.

And Musk's love life makes no shortage of headlines either.

After his high-profile relationship with musician Grimes ended, fans speculated her song Player of Games was based on her ex, with whom she shares a son, named X Æ A-Xii.

But who is Elon Musk, and how did he get to become one of the richest and most powerful people in the world?

Elon Musk hailed ‘free speech’ as he announced the Twitter buyout Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

Where is Elon Musk from?

He was born in South Africa in 1971, and showed an interest in technology - and money - at an early age.

Musk he sold the code of a video game called Blastar to a computer magazine for $500, at just 12-years-old.

He moved across the Atlantic for his education and attended Pennsylvania University.

It was here that his business ambitions began to take shape - when Musk and a friend rented out a fraternity house as a nightclub.



Young Elon had intended to study for a PhD, but his head was turned by the Dot-Com boom.

Early ventures like Zip2 and X.com gave him the capital to become CEO of online payments system PayPal in 2000.

However he didn't last long. Musk was booted out while on holiday - he made his time count - earning a life-altering $165 million (£124m) as a shareholder when the company was acquired by eBay in 2002.

  • From sci-fi dreams to SpaceX

Musk turned his attention to pursuing his boyhood obsession with science fiction.

He founded SpaceX - an aerospace company with the goal of reducing space travel costs with the eventual goal of colonising Mars.

He named his vehicles after the fictional Star Wars Millennium Falcon spaceships.

The early years were bumpy, but Musk hit the jackpot again on Christmas 2008.


  • Watch a Tesla Roadster carry 'Starman' into space:


Nasa awarded SpaceX a $1.5 billion (£1.1bn) contract, placing the company firmly at the aerospace table as a serious player.

Ten years later, the company had overseen dozens of launches and recently carried a dummy named ‘Starman’ into space, driving a Tesla Roadster.

The Tesla boom

Musk bought into the electric-car company in 2004, then staged a boardroom coup in 2007.

He nearly lost the company during the 2008 economic crisis but ultimately turned it around.

After a single tweet, the company soared to a value of $63.8bn (£48bn) within 24 hours.

But, his penchant for Twitter has backfired on occasion.

On April Fool’s Day, as reports were circulating that Tesla was on the verge of bankruptcy, a series of prank tweets by Musk drew condemnation.

Over the years, critics have questioned his social media use, as thousands relied on their job at his companies.

In 2018, Musk was in hot water once again.

Musk branded a British expat who helped with the rescue of 12 schoolboys trapped in a cave in Thailand a “pedo guy” on Twitter.

Following widespread criticism, he apologised, and later won a defamation case brought by the cave diver,who had sought damages over the tweet.

How Musk met Grimes

His private life has generated headlines too.

In 2009, he divorced his wife of nine years Justine Wilson, with whom he has five sons.

A year later, he married actress Talulah Riley before divorcing again in 2012.

They remarried in July 2013 before Musk once again filed for divorce in December 2014 but later withdrew, before filing for divorce again two years alter.

Musk alongside Talulah Riley in 2009. Credit: AP

Musk then dated Amber Heard, actress and former wife of Johnny Depp, for a year.

In the spring of 2018, he began dating Grimes as they reportedly hit it off after both made a joke about artificial intelligence.

Grimes and Musk started dating in the spring of 2018. Credit: AP

In May last year, the couple had a son - who they notably named X Æ A-12, and then later renamed X Æ A-Xii.

The pair split during the pandemic, confirming their separation in September after three years together.

President Musk?

Musk faced considerable public backlash after he joined US President Donald Trump's business advisory council.

He initially defended the move, but quit after Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

Elon Musk sandwiched between Steve Bannon and Donald Trump. Credit: AP

Like Trump, the billionaire has been more recently at the centre of a row over his taxes.

Shortly before Christmas, Musk tweeted he would pay $11billion (£8.3bn) in tax for this year.

It came after he was named Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2021, adding fuel to a global debate over how to tax the super-rich.

The Time cover prompted Senator Elizabeth Warren to tweet: "Let's change the rigged tax code so 'The Person of the Year' will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else."

Some Democrats are pushing for the mega-wealthy, like Musk, to pay tax on their assets and shares, as well as income.

In apparent response to the furore, Musk tweeted: "For those wondering, I will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year."