What is Elon Musk up to now?

15 July 2022

2:00 PM

15 July 2022

2:00 PM

Did Elon Musk ever intend to buy Twitter, or was it all another piece of showboating from a man apparently addicted to the spotlight of publicity? After he announced last Friday that he was walking away from the $44 billion deal that he had previously agreed, Twitter has sued him. A lawsuit angrily states that ‘Having mounted a public spectacle to put Twitter in play, and having proposed and then signed a seller-friendly merger agreement, [Mr] Musk apparently believes that he – unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law – is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away’. Musk was unperturbed. ‘Oh the irony lol’, he tweeted.

Yet underneath his imperviousness, it seems as if Musk’s inexorable rise to success is being checked in ways that he could never have predicted. It may yet be that he is forced to pay the agreed $54.20 per Twitter share that he was supposedly prepared to, which would give the richest man on the planet only a momentary headache. Even so, it would be a salutary reminder that not everything can proceed entirely as he would wish it to.

It has not been a vintage week for Musk. On Monday, a booster for his Starship spacecraft burst into flames on the launchpad in Texas, putting his much-heralded SpaceX programme in check for the time being. Musk had proudly boasted that Starship would be placed into orbit this year, but an unusually sombre tweet by him stated that the event – which bore unfortunate similarities to Roman Roy’s equally doomed spaceship launch in the first series of the TV Succession – was ‘actually not good’ and that the team had to assess the damage. His ambitions might be galactic, but unfortunately they have been grounded by reality.

In a more bizarre development, his licentious 76-year old father Errol has announced in an interview that he has had a second child with his stepdaughter Jana. Given that Musk reportedly went beserk when he heard the news that his father had conceived a son called Elliot in 2018 with Jana, it is hard to imagine that he will be delighted by the latest development; he has previously called his father ‘a terrible human being’ and his childhood ‘painful and isolated’. Now, as his extended family expands once again, Musk may be wondering what he has done to deserve such chaos around him.

It is, perhaps, hard to feel a great deal of sympathy for a man who is not only wealthy enough to make Croesus weep, but also given to an arrogant and contemptuous view of those who are too stupid and too weak to compete with him.

But perhaps the shine is finally coming off the Elon Musk business. For years, a combination of showmanship, genuine wit and a willingness to behave outrageously saw him establish himself as an alternative kind of mega-billionaire, more Wu-Tang Clan than Warren Buffett. But everyone gets bored of the show-off in the end, and it may be that, just as Boris Johnson was eventually brought down by his innate character flaws, Musk’s empire finds itself crumbling, brought down both by the tech-barbarians at the gate and its founder’s obsession with playing the clown.

Still, he can look on the bright side. At least there’s going to be an even bigger family for him to spend time with if it all goes horribly wrong.

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