Elon Musk Becomes World’s Second Richest Man, Knocking Bill Gates Into Third

Tom Sykes

But will it make him happy?

The world’s biggest pissing competition saw developments Tuesday morning, after Elon Musk, 49, was crowned the second-richest person on Earth, nudging Bill Gates into third spot by a rounding error. Jeff Bezos, 56, the Amazon founder whose fortune is estimated at $182 billion, is still many tens of billions ahead of Musk at $127.9 billion. Fourth is luxury-goods magnate Bernard Arnault, 71; licking his wounds in lowly fifth place is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, 36; while the sixth richest human is Warren Buffett, 90, with a pile of some $86 billion.

Musk narrowly leapfrogged Gates, whose fortune is said to be $127.7 billion, on the Bloomberg chart following a further massive surge in Tesla’s share price, occasioned by news of the company being selected to join the S&P 500 index of leading U.S. companies a week ago. This saw the 49-year-old’s net worth rise by $7.2 billion.

Incredibly, Musk’s wealth, which is intimately linked to the Tesla share price, has soared by more than $100 billion this year, making him by far the biggest gainer on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, which lists the world’s 500 richest people. In January, Musk was in 35th place.

Tesla’s shares have surged nearly 500 percent in 2020, driving its market value close to $500 billion. Three-quarters of Musk’s net worth comes from Tesla shares—he owns 21 percent of them.

If Tesla can become a $650 billion company by 2028, Musk could net a bonus deal worth a record $55.8 billion, potentially eclipsing Bezos in the No. 1 spot. However, whether Tesla can sustain its huge market value is the object of much debate; the company is expected to deliver around 320,000 electric vehicles this year, compared with Japanese carmaker Toyota’s annual production of about 10 million. Toyota has a market capitalization of around $236 billion.

However, bulls argue that with sales of electric vehicles expected to triple over the next few years, Tesla is well-positioned for further exponential growth.

The mercurial Musk is also a major player in the space industry; his company SpaceX last week sent four astronauts to the International Space Station on its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule under a commercial contract with NASA. SpaceX is about to launch 60 broadband internet satellites into orbit.

Gates, 65, who co-founded Microsoft, was the world’s richest person for years before being knocked out of the top slot by Bezos in 2017. Gates has given more than $50 billion to help fight disease and poverty, mainly through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has also backed the development of COVID-19 vaccines. Bezos has seen his fortune drop back slightly since the height of the pandemic as Amazon’s share price has fallen on news of vaccines being successfully produced.

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