Archive for the 'Investments' Category

Only $43 Billion for a Tweet

Elon Musk is a household name, much like Henry Ford about a hundred years ago.

They both were innovators, they liked cars, and they were convinced that they knew what was best for the rest of us. They treated workers with disdain and didn’t always follow the rules. Ford was worth about $200 billion when he died at 83 in 1947, about $70 billion less than Musk, adjusted for inflation. At 50, Musk is a mere baby with time to build up his lead and his impact on us.

Musk is the world’s richest person even surpassing rock stars Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Race car drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton love cars too but are worth only $300 million. At $18 billion, the Saudi Crown Prince pales in comparison. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is about $90 billion short of Musk.

Although the Saudi family fortune is estimated at $1.4 trillion, it’s spread among 15,000 members. Musk shares his fortune with no one.

Viewed by some as being weird, Elon acquired the trait early on. When he was a child, his adenoids were removed because doctors suspected that he was deaf, but his mother later decided that he was thinking “in another world.” Echoing his mother, Musk’s business ventures sometimes rival those of the psychotic Howard Hughes.

Nearly all of Musk’s fortune is tied up in Tesla. With more than two million slavishly devoted Tesla drivers, the company is valued at about $1 trillion dollars. That’s 5% of the U.S. gross domestic product.

A company’s value is often reflected in its price/earnings or P/E ratio. If a company earns $5 per share of stock and its stock price is $50, the company is said to have a P/E of 10. The higher the P/E, the greater the expectation for a company’s bright future. Tesla’s PE is a whopping 209. Amazon sports a robust but not overly radical 47. General Motors has a P/E of 6. Some might say that Tesla is overvalued; others might say that GM is in the shitter.

An active user of social media, Musk has 80 million Twitter followers. My blog has about 200, not million, just 200. I influence no one other than my wife and my daughter. And even then, I get criticism.

Musk’s recent offer to buy Twitter for $43 billion reminds me of the movie, Citizen Kane. An ill-disguised story starring Orson Welles, it focuses on William Randolph Hearst, of Hearst Castle fame and chronicles his accumulation of wealth and power through his newspaper publishing empire. It demonstrates the impact of one man on the news read by most of America, and the fears of Hearst’s contemporaries who might be targeted for destruction by the influential and semi-neurotic mogul. It also shows the eventual decline of the man and his chronic unhappiness.

Not necessarily equally neurotic, Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of the Washington Post and Rupert Murdoch’s giant news media empire both march in the direction of using the media to advance one man’s favorite causes and his picture of what a perfect world should be.

Maybe Musk has too little to do. Maybe he just likes to rattle people’s cages. Or maybe he has a grand design for Twitter known only to him that comes from what his mother called “another world.”

With 80 million Twitter followers and the ability to sanction other Twitter posters (Barack Obama has 130 million followers) for behavior deemed unacceptable by a sometimes-peripatetic Musk, his influence should be of concern. 

On the other hand, it could be a fun ride. In a Tesla of course.



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