Elon Musk was the second person ever to amass a personal fortune of more than US$200 billion, breaching that threshold in January 2021, months after Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos.
The Tesla chief executive has now achieved a first of his own: becoming the only person in history to erase US$200 billion from his net worth.
Musk, 51, has seen his wealth plummet to US$137 billion after Tesla shares tumbled in recent weeks, including an 11 percent drop on Tuesday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
His fortune peaked at US$340 billion on Nov 4, 2021, and he remained the world’s richest person until he was overtaken in December by Bernard Arnault, the French tycoon behind luxury-goods powerhouse LVMH.
The round-number milestone reflects just how high Musk soared during the run-up in asset prices during the easy-money pandemic era.
Tesla exceeded a US$1 trillion market capitalisation for the first time in October 2021, joining the likes of ubiquitous technology companies Apple, Microsoft, Amazon.com and Google parent Alphabet, even though its electric vehicles represented only a sliver of the overall auto market.
Now, Tesla’s dominance in electric cars, the foundation of its lofty valuation, is in jeopardy as competitors catch up. It is offering American consumers a rare US$7,500 discount to take delivery of its two highest-volume models before year-end, while also reportedly reducing production at its Shanghai plant.
Meanwhile, with pressure on Tesla intensifying, Musk has been preoccupied with Twitter, which he acquired for US$44 billion in late October.
He has applied a move-fast-and-break-things approach, such as firing staff then asking them to come back and applying content policies haphazardly to justify banning the accounts of some prominent journalists who cover him.
The decline in Tesla shares has been so steep, the shares fell 65 percent in 2022, and Musk has sold so much in 2022 to help cover his Twitter purchase, that they are no longer his biggest asset, according to Bloomberg’s wealth index.
Musk’s stake in his closely held Space Exploration Technologies, at US$44.8 billion, exceeds his approximately US$44 billion position in Tesla stock. (He still has options worth an estimated US$27.8 billion). Musk now owns 42.2 percent of SpaceX, according to a recent filing.
Musk, for his part, has dismissed concerns about Tesla and has repeatedly taken to Twitter to criticise the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates at the fastest pace in a generation.
“Tesla is executing better than ever!” Musk tweeted on Dec 16. “We don’t control the Federal Reserve. That is the real problem here.”
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES