Elon Musk’s ever-expanding empire

The electric car and space mogul is venturing into a new realm with Twitter

Elon Musk arrives at the Met Gala in New York on May 2. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
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SAN FRANCISCO — With his deal to take over Twitter, Elon Musk could soon be in control of the communications medium used by the world’s most influential leaders — in addition to being at the helm of the world’s most valuable carmaker and the rocket-building firm that has revitalized the U.S. space program. All at the same time.

It is rare for one executive to divide his or her time between so many ventures. In fact, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who simultaneously ran payments platform Square (now called Block), was criticized for not being able to focus his attention full time on Twitter. He stepped down from Twitter last year. Musk has a tendency to launch headfirst into initiatives important to him — though he also delegates his work, relying on teams of leaders to carry out his vision.

Musk has a habit of pouring his money into ventures he sees as “existential.” An early pioneer of the online payments space, Musk took the earnings from PayPal’s sale to eBay and funneled it into two ventures — Tesla and SpaceX — that would become the centerpieces of his portfolio. Judging by his frequent tweeting about the necessity for “free speech” on social media, he sees Twitter as core to his legacy.

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Dorsey put Musk’s ambitions in metaphysical terms: his purchase of Twitter furthers a mission “to extend the light of consciousness.”

If that’s too abstract, take it from Tesla and Twitter investor Ross Gerber. “He’s more powerful than countries now,” Gerber told The Washington Post last month.

Let’s take a look at Musk’s empire — and its reach — now that he could soon be the owner of Twitter.

1

Tesla

Musk’s role: CEO, co-founder

Valuation: $797 billion

2021 Revenue: $53.8 billion

Musk’s stake: 21.20%

Head count: 99,290

Tesla made electric cars mainstream, and it has global ambitions. The company, which made more than 930,000 vehicles last year, wants to eventually produce 20 million vehicles per year. It all started with a sporty convertible, the Roadster. But Tesla gradually expanded to sedans with the Model S, SUVs with the Model X, and more mainstream offerings with the Model 3 sport sedan and Model Y crossover.

Tesla now has factories in the United States, China and Germany. In the United States alone it has a presence in California, Texas, New York and Nevada.

The company has been called the crown jewel, the golden child, and the center of Musk’s portfolio. But electrifying the automotive fleet may not even be the most important challenge Musk has undertaken.


2

SpaceX

Musk’s role: CEO, founder

Valuation: $100 billion

2021 Revenue: Estimated $4 billion

Musk’s stake: 40% to 50%

Head count: 10,000

Elon Musk wants humans to land on Mars.

That pursuit begins with building rockets. SpaceX, a private firm, has worked with NASA in recent years to conduct space launches, making trips to the International Space Station and pioneering reusable rockets.

SpaceX is even working to return astronauts on the Moon. SpaceX has a mission of making life multiplanetary. Musk characterized SpaceX’s importance to his portfolio as an extension of his mission at Tesla.

“We must safeguard the future of life by transitioning to sustainable energy on Earth & becoming multiplanetary via Mars,” he wrote in a tweet. “It’s not clear how much time we have to do these things, but sooner is definitely better.”

3

Twitter

Musk’s role: Presumptive owner

Valuation: $31 billion (Musk offered $44 billion)

2021 Revenue: $5.08 billion

Musk’s stake: 9.1%, but Musk is likely to own most of the company

Head count: 7,500

Musk’s public pronouncements in recent weeks indicate he sees Twitter as more than just a place to post memes and launch barbs at his enemies. Twitter, he said, is a “de facto town square” and fundamental to the functioning of democracy.

Here’s what Elon Musk has said about his plans for Twitter

Twitter’s valuation is just a fraction of Tesla’s market cap, which has exceeded $1 trillion at times recently. And Twitter’s head count of 7,500 employees is dwarfed by Tesla and its subsidiaries’ nearly 100,000 workers. Still, Twitter would be a central piece of Musk’s portfolio — giving him control of a communications arm that has reach well beyond what its finances would suggest.

Musk has laid out detailed plans for the future of Twitter. He has said he wants to open up its algorithm, meaning everyday users would be able to gain insight into which tweets are populating their timelines and why. And Musk has indicated he wants to significantly cut down on content moderation decisions he views as ideologically driven. He said he would restore the account of former president Donald Trump, who was banned following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Twitter, in Musk’s view, should do little beyond the law to restrict speech.


4

Neuralink

Musk’s role: Founder

Valuation: $2.11 billion

Revenue: N/A

Musk’s stake: N/A

Head count: 217

Musk wants to merge human and machine, curing neurological disorders and unlocking other potential benefits with brain-embedded computer chips. Neuralink has yet to put products to market — but Musk has spelled out its ambitions.

“First @Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs,” he wrote in a 2021 tweet.

It has described the potential applications of its technology as “limitless.”

Neuralink has come under criticism for its testing on animals, including monkeys, as it develops its products. Some animals have died in the course of the research.

“Currently, all novel medical devices and treatments must be tested in animals before they can be ethically trialed in humans. Neuralink is not unique in this regard,” the company wrote in a blog post.

5

The Boring Co.

Musk’s role: Founder

Valuation: $5.68 billion

Revenue: Estimated $25 million

Musk’s stake: N/A

Head count: 200

Musk has another major ambition: solving traffic.

So far it has manifested in a three-stop transportation line, the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop, where visitors are shuttled along 1.7 miles of tunnel in Tesla vehicles. The line takes passengers between the facility’s south and west portions, with another stop in between, “and reduces a 45-minute cross-campus journey time to approximately two minutes.”

That proof of concept has been enough to spur interest from investors: the company announced last month it had raised $675 million in funding, which will enable further projects.

The Boring Co. has yet to prove its theory that tunneling can solve traffic on a larger scale. Critics point out that rather than increasing mobility, the strategic relocation of cars underground would not actually move more people through cities — like a much higher-capacity subway train would — but rather take the traffic temporarily out of view.

Musk is insistent, however: “It’s either traffic forever or tunnels,” he wrote in a tweet in November.

Some figures are estimates because private companies are not required to report their information. Data gathered from PitchBook, SEC filings and media and financial sources such as Barron’s, EquityZen and Business Insider.

Douglas MacMillan contributed to this report.

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