Reaching $300 Billion and Influencing Crypto: A Look Back at the Year for Elon Musk

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Elon Musk showed his lighter side when he hosted “Saturday Night Live” in May. While there’s no word on how much NBC might’ve paid the billionaire boss of Tesla and SpaceX, the Sun reported that hosts can expect to walk away from the gig with a cool $5,000. Not bad for a single night’s work — for most people.

Elon Musk is hardly most people.

He built two of the most innovative, exciting and successful companies in the world, both of which have staked a claim to a sizable chunk of the future. Along the way, Elon Musk has become the richest man in the world — and 2021 was his career year. Here’s why.

He Dunked on All the Other Billionaires

As of Dec. 6, Forbes ranks Elon Musk as the richest person in the world by a mile with a net worth just shy of $266 billion. That’s $70 billion more than No. 2, Jeff Bezos’ $195.6 billion. For context, Michael Bloomberg — one of the 20 richest people in the world — has $70 billion in total. Not one member of the Walton family has as much money as the sea of cash that separates Musk and the next-richest billionaire.

After adding $140 billion to his net worth in 2020 — he started 2020 with $30 billion, according to CNBC — Musk’s wealth continued to snowball throughout 2021. By the start of fall, Musk’s fortune was historically epic.

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At the end of September, Musk became the third person ever to cross the $200 billion mark, according to Forbes. By mid-October, CNBC was reporting that Musk was worth more than Warren Buffett and Bill Gates combined. By the end of October — just one month after eclipsing $200 billion — Musk crossed the $300 billion mark. A few days later on Nov. 1, Musk’s fortune was estimated at more than $335 billion — more than one-third of a trillion dollars. He was three times richer than Buffett, and 12 figures were needed to count the difference between Musk’s net worth and that of his next-closest rival.

He Got Into the Rental Car Business

On Oct. 26 — at the peak of his legendary Halloween run — Forbes reported that “Elon Musk has emerged as the richest person in the history of the world.” That day, Musk got $14 billion richer when Hertz announced it would be purchasing 100,000 rental cars from Tesla, mostly Model 3 sedans.

It was a game-changing moment for the mainstreaming of EVs.

The mega-order from Hertz, which started in 1918 renting out Ford Model Ts, represented the biggest purchase of electric cars in history, according to Bloomberg. For Tesla, the deal meant $4.2 billion in new revenue.

He Found Himself in Charge of a $1 Trillion Company

On Oct. 26, 2020, Tesla had a market cap of less than $400 billion. Exactly one year later to the day, Tesla joined the smallest and most exclusive fraternity in the corporate world when the company crossed $1 trillion in market cap.

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Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Apple are the only other U.S. corporations that require 13 digits to measure their value.

He Flexed His Crypto Clout

Musk’s history of crypto-tweeting can be traced back to 2017, but throughout 2021, his power to move markets with just a few words on social media was put on display over and over again.

At the end of January, Bitcoin shot up by 15% just minutes after Musk simply added “#Bitcoin” to his Twitter profile page, according to Bloomberg. He sent Dogecoin to a record high in February with a single tweet, but the real boost went to Bitcoin that same month. The original cryptocurrency shot up by a full 20% when Musk announced that Tesla was making a $1.5 billion investment in Bitcoin and that it planned to accept it as currency from car buyers.

Just as he buoyed Dogecoin with support in February, he sent the altcoin’s price tumbling in May just by joking about it on “SNL,” according to Reuters. A few days later, he sank not only Bitcoin, but the entire crypto market when he tweeted that Tesla would cancel plans to accept Bitcoin over objections to the amount of energy that goes into mining it.

He Won the Battle for Space Here on Earth

When American astronauts return to the moon for the first time since 1972, it’s almost certain that they’ll get there in a spacecraft built by Elon Musk’s company. In April, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract worth nearly $3 billion to build a moonlander that Jeff Bezos desperately wanted for his Blue Origin rocket company.

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Bezos launched a series of lawsuits that sought to have the award overturned on the grounds that NASA awarded it unfairly — but Musk fought him off. In early November, a federal judge rejected the last of those challenges and SpaceX is moving forward with the lunar lander.

So, What’s Next for the $300 Billion Man?

It appears that the future belongs to Elon Musk both here and in space — and building electric cars and moon machines aren’t his only ventures. Also in 2021, CNBC reported on Musk’s plan to build Tesla Bot, a 5-foot-8-inch 125-pound humanoid robot that can lift 150 pounds and run 5 miles per hour. A prototype is planned for 2022.

It’s also very possible that Elon Musk might soon look back and laugh at a time when the world thought $300 billion was a lot of money for one person to have. Barron’s recently laid out a compelling case for a near future where the success of Tesla and SpaceX combine to make Elon Musk the world’s first trillionaire.

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