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South Africans enjoy basking in the reflected glory of Silicon Valley’s most successful entrepreneur. And love reminding outsiders (and themselves) that Elon Musk was born and raised in SA before leaving home straight after matric to try his luck on a bigger stage – partly to avoid the Apartheid regime’s compulsory National Service for white boys.
There were plenty of headlines around the world last week when a soaring Tesla share price and Warren Buffett’s donation of $2.8bn pushed Musk’s fortune past that of the Oracle of Omaha on Bloomberg’s Billionaire’s Index. The self-made kid from Pretoria is now the seventh richest person in the world, worth an official $70bn.
But the Bloomberg list substantially undervalues Musk’s true net worth. The bulk of his asset base is the 21% ownership of Tesla Motors. Bloomberg attributes a value of $15bn to the entrepreneurial genius’s controlling stake in SpaceX, the world’s most successful private space company. At current market values for new age stocks, that appears to be a massive underpricing.
A more realistic value for SpaceX is north of a couple hundred billion dollars, at which level Musk’s net worth jumps to perhaps $200bn – putting him into a straight contest with the world’s number one, Amazon.com’s founder Jeff Bezos ($189bn) and well beyond next ranked Bill Gates ($116bn). There’s surely plenty more reflected glory ahead for this former countrymen. Musk has decades of runway ahead. He turned 49 just over a fortnight ago.
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