Elon Musk: The cash-poor multibillionaire

The world's richest man is the sole member of the exclusive $200 billion club based on his public and private assets - but you could just be more liquid than him

Elon Musk holds the world record for the biggest wealth drop in history, according to the Guinness World Records. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

What is your idea of wealth? For some, it's having enough money to retire on and live a comfortable life, able to pay your bills, put food on the table and have a roof over your head.

For others, it could be about socking away as much money as possible and joining the high-net-worth club that requires an average personal fortune of about $2.2 million.

These days, millionaires are pretty much a dime a dozen, while the list of billionaires continues to grow – in 2022, there were 3,194 billionaires in the world, according to Statista.

When you consider that American business tycoon John D Rockefeller was the world’s first billionaire in 1916 with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion – or 1.5 per cent of the US gross domestic product at the time – that’s not a bad growth rate for the super-rich over a period of 107 years.

For many of us, though, wealth without limits is nothing more than a dream – more so when you consider that you need a minimum net worth of $117 billion to make it into the world’s top 10 wealthiest list on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

But don’t be disheartened: It's worth noting that the majority of the world’s billionaires inherited their wealth in 2022 rather than rolling up their sleeves and earning it, according to a report released last week by Swiss banking Group UBS.

It can be lonely at the top of the world’s wealthiest list. Just ask Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla and owner of social media platform X, formerly Twitter, and Space X. As the world’s richest person, he is currently the sole member of the exclusive $200 billion club.

With a current net worth of $225 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Mr Musk has added a total of $87.8 billion to his personal fortune this year alone and outranks his closest rival, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, by a cool $54 billion.

Mr Bezos, who stepped down as Amazon’s chief executive in 2021, had a personal fortune of $171 billion as of Friday, just ahead of Bernard Arnault, chairman of French luxury group LVMH, with $170 billion in his family coffers.

At one time or another since 2020, all three men have belonged to the $200 billion club – but never at the same time, as their fortunes, mostly tied up in the equity of their companies, rose and fell on the back of volatile global stock markets.

It is Mr Bezos who can lay claim to being the world’s first person to cross the $200 billion net worth threshold, which he achieved on August 26, 2020.

At the peak of his wealth, he was worth $210 billion and was the world’s richest person from 2017 to 2021.

But that is nothing compared with Mr Musk’s peak wealth, which hit the stratospheric height of $338 billion on November 6, 2021, making him the only person in the world to belong to the lofty $300 billion club, albeit briefly.

The roller-coaster ride of Mr Musk’s fortune has seen him dip in and out of the $200 billion club numerous times – and break a few wealth records along the way.

Last year was perhaps the most tumultuous for Mr Musk, which resulted in his wealth plummeting amid a sell-off of technology stocks and the continuing controversies related to his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter.

In January 2022, he broke the world record for the biggest wealth loss in history after shedding $182 billion from his net worth since November 2021, according to a report by Guinness World Records.

Watch: Who is billionaire Elon Musk?

Who is billionaire Elon Musk?

Who is billionaire Elon Musk?

In 2022 alone, the father of 11 shed $138 billion from his net worth – almost equivalent to the gross domestic product of Hungary – resulting in Mr Musk losing his world’s richest crown for the first time in 14 months.

While his fortunes may be on the up this year, dig a little deeper into Mr Musk’s net worth and it appears the world’s richest man has, ahem, no cash, at least according to Bloomberg.

That’s right – $0, which means that Mr Musk appears to be a centibillionaire only on paper.

Bloomberg lists his private assets as SpaceX ($53.2 billion), The Boring Company ($3.3 billion) and X Corp ($9.32 billion). His one public asset is Tesla US equity ($96.8 billion), while he’s got $7.44 billion in miscellaneous liabilities.

No surprise here, but Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and LVMH’s Mr Arnault are in better financial shape, with about $14.1 billion and $13.2 billion in cash respectively, Bloomberg data shows.

Which begs the question: How do you live without cash regardless of your billionaire status? Perhaps that is a question reserved only for the non-wealthy.

But I do know this: Give me my comfortable retirement any day – it's less stress.

Updated: December 11, 2023, 5:30 AM