Billionaires: Elon Musk may become policy adviser if Donald Trump returns to White House

In our fortnightly round-up of the world’s ultra-wealthy, Melinda French Gates will donate $1 billion to support women's rights and Daniel Kretinsky is to fund Royal Mail buyout with debt and equity

In March, following a meeting with Donald Trump in Florida, Elon Musk said he would not donate money to either Mr Trump or President Joe Biden. Reuters
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Donald Trump is considering billionaire Elon Musk as a policy adviser if the Republican presidential candidate reclaims the White House in November’s election, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The two have discussed ways for Mr Musk, who runs the social media platform X as well as SpaceX and Tesla, to have “formal input and influence” over economic and border security policies, according to the Journal, citing sources.

The WSJ also said Mr Musk informed Mr Trump about his ongoing influence campaign aimed at convincing powerful US business leaders not to support Democratic President Joe Biden, who beat Mr Trump in the 2020 election and is seeking a second term.

Those talks, which included billionaire investor Nelson Peltz, also featured discussions about funding a “data-driven project to prevent voter fraud”, the outlet said, adding no further details were known.

Mr Trump’s campaign spokesman Brian Hughes told the Journal that only Mr Trump will decide “what role an individual plays in his presidency”.

The WSJ said Mr Musk did not respond to its requests for comment.

In March, following a meeting with Mr Trump in Florida, Mr Musk – one of the world's wealthiest individuals – said he would not donate money to Mr Trump or Mr Biden.

Instead, he aims “to use his clout … to help defeat Biden by galvanising the support of influential allies”, said the WSJ, citing a person familiar with his thinking.

Mr Musk in recent years has more fully embraced the Republican Party.

He has claimed that Mr Biden is intentionally allowing migrants to cross the US-Mexico border. Mr Musk has also endorsed anti-Semitic comments on X, though he has denied being anti-Semitic.

While he has criticised Mr Biden’s policies on immigration, electric vehicles and tariffs, Mr Musk has not made any formal endorsement in November’s contest and Mr Trump has said he did not know if he has the billionaire’s support.

Mr Musk’s views have hurt his standing among some consumers, according to a CivicScience survey shown to Reuters.

Mr Trump, a prolific user of Twitter, now X, before he was banned from the social media site following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, launched his rival Truth Social platform, owned by Trump Media and Technology Group.

Melinda French Gates

Melinda French Gates says she will be donating $1 billion over the next two years to individuals and organisations working on behalf of women and families globally, including on reproductive rights in the US.

It's the second billion-dollar commitment Ms French Gates has personally made in the past five years. In 2019, she pledged over 10 years to expand women’s power and influence.

Last month, Ms French Gates announced she would step down from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and vowed to focus on women and families.

As a part of leaving the Gates Foundation, she received $12 billion from Bill Gates for her philanthropy going forward.

Ms French Gates, one of the biggest philanthropic supporters of gender equity in the US, said in a guest essay for The New York Times that she's been frustrated over the years by people who say it's not the right time to talk about gender equality.

“Decades of research on economics, well-being and governance make it clear that investing in women and girls benefits everyone,” she wrote.

Ms French Gates said over the past few weeks she's started directing what will total $200 million in new grants through her organisation, Pivotal Ventures, to groups working in the US to protect women's rights and advance their power and influence.

The grants are for general operating support, meaning they are not earmarked for specific projects.

Ms French Gates also pledged to give 12 individuals $20 million each to distribute to non-profit organisations of their choice before the end of 2026.

Those funds will be managed by the National Philanthropic Trust, one of the largest public charities that offers donor-advised funds, a spokesperson for Pivotal Ventures said.

In all, Ms French Gates announced $690 million in commitments out of the promised $1 billion.

Ms French Gates said $250 million will be awarded to fund organisations working to improve women's mental and physical health globally.

Pivotal Ventures has focused on avenues to increase women’s economic and political participation and power, like closing the wage gap, compensating care work often done by women, and encouraging women to run for political office.

The company said it has committed $875 million of the $1 billion that Ms French Gates pledged in 2019 to a mixture of venture and philanthropic funding.

Ms French Gates will be leaving the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation this week. She helped co-found the organisation nearly 25 years ago.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will change its name to the Gates Foundation. It is one of the largest philanthropic organisations in the world.

As of December 2023, its endowment was $75.2 billion, thanks to donations from Mr Gates and the billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

While it works across many issues, global health remains its largest area of work, and most of its funding is meant to address issues internationally rather than in the US.

Daniel Kretinsky

Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky plans to fund the takeover of International Distribution Services, owner of the UK’s Royal Mail, with both equity and debt.

The tycoon’s EP Group plans to use £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) of equity and about £2.3 billion of debt to fund the transaction, said Roman Silha, the head of mergers and acquisitions for his EP Corporate Group.

Mr Kretinsky said Royal Mail needs investment now in order to maintain its market share.

“We believe for the future success of IDS and of Royal Mail, it is really beneficial to create a situation where they have a clear owner backing the long-term strategy,” Mr Kretinsky said.

The tycoon’s EP Group has agreed to buy the shares it doesn’t already own in IDS.

A year ago, Mr Kretinsky said he wasn’t actively considering a takeover of IDS – which also owns parcel and freight delivery services firm GLS.

But the need for investment, in particular in the out-of-home parcel delivery both for Royal Mail and GLS, made him reconsider.

With a net worth according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index of $8.1 billion, the tycoon has spent a decade cobbling together an empire that stretches from power plants to retail and media, with his most recent purchases targeting mostly entities in financial distress.

Although not in dire straits, Royal Mail’s business model faces critical challenges as it grapples with a decline in letter writing and the rise in parcel deliveries tied to e-commerce. IDS last month reported another annual loss for the year ended March 31.

We believe for the future success of IDS and of Royal Mail, it is really beneficial to create a situation where they have a clear owner backing the long-term strategy
Daniel Kretinsky

The debt to fund the deal has been underwritten by BNP Paribas, Citi, Societe Generale and UniCredit, with £1.1 billion in the form of a term loan that will be for five or six years, Mr Silha said.

The rest will be bridges that EP would like to replace with bonds in the two or three years following the closing of the deal, or to be repaid with proceeds from EP Holdings, he said.

Mr Kretinsky’s £3.6 billion takeover of the parent of Royal Mail on the eve of a UK general election looks set to unleash a struggle over the future ownership of Britain’s postal service.

He has pledged not to break up the group for at least three years and to deliver letters six days a week for the next five years.

Still, the deal is likely to face opposition from UK politicians who have previously voiced concern about Mr Kretinsky already owning a chunk of the former state-owned company. His stake is currently more than 27 per cent.

In the UK, Mr Kretinsky also has stakes in grocer J Sainsbury and Premier League football club West Ham United.

The 48-year-old owner of the largest privately-held energy conglomerate in Europe has seen his fortunes soar, buoyed mainly by rising power prices during the continent’s crisis.

The billionaire has sought to diversify, completing the takeover of troubled French grocery chain Casino Guichard-Perrachon in March.

He got a green light last week from Germany’s Thyssenkrupp’s supervisory board to buy a 20 per cent stake in its Steel Europe unit – and is in discussions to buy an additional 30 per cent.

He’s also bidding for the embattled IT services firm Atos, a former French tech champion now in need of a rescue.

The takeover of IDS is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2025, and needs antitrust approval not only from the UK and the European Commission, but also from other countries where GLS operates, including the US, Canada and Serbia.

Updated: June 03, 2024, 5:00 AM