Dec 5, 2022 - Technology

Elon Musk's year of losing

Photo illustration of Elon Musk looking worried and surrounded by bright red X's.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk's year-end balance sheet for 2022 is full of red ink.

Why it matters: The world's richest man has been an icon of technological success, but his moves this year — led by his purchase of Twitter — have slashed his financial bottom line and tarnished his personal capital.

Driving the news: Much of Elon Musk's wealth is tied up in Tesla stock, which is down roughly 50% from the start of the year.

The big picture: It's symbolic of a year when Musk soared in mindshare — as his array of businesses weathered stalls and setbacks.

State of play: Tesla shareholders fret that Musk has spread himself too thin as the owner-manager of a half dozen major enterprises.

At Twitter, Musk needs to boost revenue while operating with one-third of the staff.

  • A much-touted subscription overhaul is on pause after a rush-job launch led to a train wreck of impersonation and fraud.
  • Many advertisers, the company's main source of income, paused their buys as Musk took control.
  • The company's payroll costs are down. But it has to pay roughly $1 billion in annual interest on the $13 billion debt the company took on as part of Musk's buyout.

Touring Musk's other enterprises:

  1. At SpaceX, the good outweighed the bad. His rockets set a launch record, and Falcon Heavy returned to the skies. But the company saw an unusual rise in dissent and workplace complaints.
  2. The Boring Company, a Musk startup that aims to build tunnels under U.S. cities to speed traffic, has completed just one project — a loop under the Las Vegas Convention Center. Boring has teased projects in L.A., Chicago, Maryland and Fort Lauderdale — but hasn't followed through with actual bids, The Wall Street Journal reported in a story headlined, "Musk’s Boring Company Ghosts Cities Across America."
  3. Musk's Neuralink is developing technology for human-computer interfaces directly implanted in human skulls. As is often the case for Musk projects, Neuralink has presented video demos — most recently last week — touting breakthroughs just around the corner.

Reality check: Musk's net worth of nearly $200 billion still places him at the pinnacle of the global plutocracy.

  • Even if he had to zero out his Twitter investment, he'd be just fine.
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