Elon Musk is a “boss-Shiva”. At the same time visionary, provocative, adventurous, brutal and vulgar. An incendiary boss always on the verge of breaking, pushing the established limits to impose his own. Not a week without the leader of Space X (rockets), The Boring Company (tunnels), Tesla (electric vehicles), or even Neuralink (brain implants) making headlines. The economic chronicle, first, with its devastating and sometimes enigmatic tweets which act as a press release for each of its boxes. The political chronicle, then, while his pikes against Biden and the Democrats are becoming more and more frequent, a thousand leagues from the caution, even the discreet support, displayed by the titans of Silicon Valley. The tabloids, finally, who enjoy his love affairs and his growing offspring – he now has ten children.
In a man’s life, some years count double. In 2022, Elon Musk sat on Olympus. Elected man of the year last December by the prestigious magazine Time, he thus joined the very exclusive club of six business leaders crowned since 1927, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos having preceded him. He especially won the cup of the richest man in the world with a fortune estimated at nearly 220 billion dollars in the middle of the summer by the magazine Forbes. For the average person, his empire seems heterogeneous. In reality, it responds to a very “Muskian” logic that espouses its messianic delirium: to offer a multiplanetary and in particular Martian future to humanity. Each brick contributes to this: rockets for transport, tunnels for living under the planet, robots to prepare for the arrival of humans, batteries for energy, autonomous electric cars for getting around…
These crazy projects ruffle some people, but have turned Elon Musk into a guru for millions of people all over the globe. No other captain of industry has this aura. But it is not far from the Capitol to the Tarpeian rock.
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2023, a high-risk year
In 2023, the billionaire is playing big. First on the human and managerial level. His repeated excesses are beginning to annoy even within his teams. A first: in mid-June, an open and anonymous letter signed by Space X executives was published, denouncing the attitude and the cookie-cutter words of the fiery boss: “It is essential to make our teams and our pool of potential talent that its message does not reflect our work, our mission or our values.” First cracks between the guru and his apostles? In the process, some senior figures in the box slammed the door. However, Musk’s ability to “deliver” and keep his insane promises also depends on his ability to attract the best in their discipline.
The two being linked, financially, too, he plays big. But the Twitter affair is perhaps one too many. His lightning raid last spring and his intention to buy the social network for the trifle of 44 billion dollars before backtracking at the beginning of the summer, trampling on the contract signed a few weeks earlier, could cost him a lot. More than the billion in penalties provided for in the deal if he fails to raise the funds. Judges could force the sale just as Tesla, the real cash machine of its galaxy, shows signs of running out of steam.
The shortage of semiconductors has caught up with the manufacturer and disrupted its production chain. Tesla’s global sales tumbled 18% between the first and second quarters of 2022. More worryingly, Musk continues to lament that his new assembly plants in Austin, Texas, and Berlin, Germany, “are losing billions of dollars”. One way to justify the slimming cure he wants to impose on the group: the immediate hiring freeze and the dismissal of 10% of its workforce worldwide.
At Space X, the first orbital flight of its mega rocket Starship, which should take place in the next few weeks, will also be decisive. Decisive to accelerate the deployment of its constellation of more than 30,000 Starlink telecommunications satellites. Failure and the ease with which he raises crazy sums of money from private investors for his launcher business could be tarnished. With cascading effects on his other businesses. The Boring Company raised nearly $675 million in April to develop its future tunnel boring machine dubbed Profrock3. A revolutionary machine that is already shaking established giants in the sector like Bouygues Construction. And he will need even more cash, always more cash for Neuralink, and so as to start production of his humanoid robots that he promises for 2023… Robots that no one has ever seen! So many challenges that Musk will have to meet. To not know the twilight of the idols.
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