Storm clouds are rumbling over Silicon Valley. Twitter’s share price is tumbling, its executives are marshalling their lawyers and its users are heaping scorn on the man whose mercurial behaviour has, once again, shaken up the technology industry.
Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, is pulling out of his $44 billion (£36.7 billion) bid to buy the social media giant: a huge blow to the financially struggling company that it has promised to fight.
Strangely, however, the outspoken entrepreneur, who never normally shrinks from a scrap, has gone deathly quiet on Twitter itself, where he has more than 100 million followers.
As of yesterday, several of his latest tweets were instead about one of his favourite hobby horses, the world’s declining population.
Musk is pictured with first wife Justine. The couple had six children together before an icy split
‘Doing my best to help the underpopulation crisis,’ he intoned. ‘A collapsing birth rate is the biggest danger civilisation faces by far.’
He added: ‘I hope you have big families and congrats to those who already do!’
The 51-year-old Tesla tycoon is famously enigmatic — but, on this occasion, it wasn’t hard to work out what he meant.
It has now emerged that, last November, he quietly welcomed twins with a senior executive at one of his companies.
Furthermore, they arrived just a few weeks before Musk had a second child via surrogate with his on-off girlfriend Claire Boucher, alias Canadian pop star Grimes.
It has now emerged that Musk welcomed twins in November with executive Shivon Zilis, 36
No wonder then the maverick businessman would boast about his baby-production record — to date he has fathered at least ten children.
Last December, he solemnly told a business conference that people needed to start breeding like rabbits if civilisation wasn’t to be doomed to extinction.
‘There are not enough people,’ he declared. ‘If people don’t have more children, civilisation is going to crumble — mark my words.’
Musk poses on a red carpet in 2012 with actress Talulah Riley. The couple had two children together – and were married twice
His interviewer asked him if that explained why he had so many children himself. ‘I try to set a good example,’ he quipped. ‘I like to practice what I preach.’
Quite so. Grimes has described their relationship, in which they live separately but ‘see each other all the time’, as ‘very fluid’.
South African born Musk is a man of contradictions and one of the most glaring is how such a relentlessly successful businessman and innovator can have such a jaw-droppingly outlandish private life.
According to court papers obtained by the news website Insider, he had the two most recent children with Shivon Zilis, 36, director of operations and special projects at Neuralink, a dystopian-sounding Musk-owned company that develops implants to connect human brains directly to computers.
Insider deleted the twins’ first names to protect their privacy but history suggests they may be a little exotic. Musk’s two children with Grimes — who appears to be even more eccentric — are two-year-old son X Æ A-Xii (pronounced ‘X-Ash-A-12’) and seven-month-old Exa Dark Sideræl. They are known as X and Y for short.
The latter’s existence was also kept quiet, only to be revealed after a Vanity Fair journalist was interviewing Grimes at home and heard a baby wailing in the house.
Musk met Grimes in 2018 — on Twitter. He was planning to make a joke about artificial intelligence and found she’d made it already.
Two years ago, Grimes announced that she was selling a percentage of her ‘soul’ as part of her first online art show — and explains her daughter’s name has ‘Elven’ roots.
Musk also has five children with his first wife, Canadian author Justine Musk.
A sixth child, their first, died of sudden infant death syndrome aged ten weeks in 2002, prompting them to use in vitro fertilisation. Then Justine gave birth to twins — Vivian and Griffin — in 2004, followed by triplets — Kai, Saxon and Damian — in 2006.
Musk appeared at the 2018 Met Gala with his most recent partner Grimes, who had two kids
While others who have clawed their way up to occupy the top slot in the global fortune stakes, from the priapic oil baron J. Paul Getty to the nerdy Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, have generally shunned publicity, Elon Musk craves the limelight and has a reputation for a sort of buccaneering insouciance.
Some have been asking when he’ll call time on his reproductive urges but, given he is estimated to be worth about £186 billion, it won’t be because he can’t afford it. Critics say his compulsion to spread his seed is typically arrogant.
But while other Silicon Valley tycoons swan around in super yachts and sink their fortunes into quack scientific research to try to find how they can live to be 200 years old, Musk — at least —voyages towards horizons that extend far beyond his own vanity and self-indulgence.
His ambitions to colonise Mars and save humanity may seem far-fetched but his reuseable SpaceX rockets have given cash-strapped NASA transport up to the International Space Station.
Musk didn’t invent Tesla cars but, thanks to his business expertise, he has made the company the front-runner in weaning motorists off petrol vehicles.
He’s also fighting global warming by researching how to store renewable energy in batteries.
And in Ukraine, he answered a request from the embattled government and sent hardware allowing the country to connect to Starlink, Musk’s satellite internet communications platform that uses more than 2,000 satellites orbiting Earth to provide internet access. The Ukrainians say it’s been a godsend, allowing them to do everything from hold Zoom meetings to call in artillery strikes.
If the Russians withdraw support for the International Space Station, Musk says SpaceX could step into the breach.
And his attempts through Neuralink to find a way of connecting our brains directly to computers isn’t just a sci-fi gimmick. He says it will not only enable paralysed people to use, say, mobile phones but will prevent Artificial Intelligence from one day destroying humanity, as he fears may happen.
And just as he often does what he says, Musk tends to say what he thinks — without much of a filter.
He has been lauded for fighting global warming, reinvigorating space travel, providing Ukraine with a satellite lifeline and promising, until he walked away from the deal, to strengthen free speech on Twitter,.
But Musk has been lambasted for calling a British cave diver trying to save trapped Thai children a ‘pedo guy’, for rejecting the most basic Covid precautions, for getting into silly name-calling spats with fellow billionaires and for shamelessly cosying up to the Chinese Communist Party.
Now some say that in starting a romance with a corporate underling he may have fallen foul of the U.S.’s strict codes on workplace relationships.
Ms Zilis’s online biographies, which have reportedly been edited or removed completely since news of their twins broke, show she has worked at a trio of Musk-connected companies, including artificial intelligence company OpenAI and Tesla.
She previously worked for IBM and studied machine intelligence at Yale University where she was goalkeeper for the women’s ice-hockey team.
According to court papers, Musk and Ms Zilis share a $4 million home in Austin, Texas, even though Musk, in 2020, said he was getting rid of all his homes and possessions, and moved into a cheap and tiny prefabricated house.
Insider this week said he and Ms Zilis met in 2016 while she was working at OpenAI, where she is now the youngest member of the board of directors.
Musk is famously laid-back over staff behaviour at his companies — although they’ve been inundated with complaints about harsh working conditions and sexual harassment — but most large U.S. companies prohibit romantic relationships between colleagues who are separated by at least two levels in the chain of command.
There was speculation in the technology world yesterday that news of his relationship with Ms Zilis and her possible preferential treatment as a result would damage morale at Musk companies where she worked.
Tesla has been snowed under by lawsuits brought by staff and there were suggestions Ms Zilis herself could take those companies to the cleaners if the relationship sours and she claims Musk abused his position as chief executive. She will already surely know that dating a centibillionaire has its catches.
Musk says his engineer father treated him brutally and he was mercilessly bullied at school over his Asperger’s Syndrome. He retreated into his first passion, computers.
Like many at the top in Silicon Valley, his inter- personal skills are not strong.
He likes attractive women who share his passion for science and technology. But first wife Justine compared his wooing technique to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s killer android — he just wouldn’t stop, she said.
She also recalled that, during their first dance at their 2000 wedding, Musk told her he was the ‘alpha’ in the relationship and, if she were one of his employees, he would sack her.
Justine says their marriage collapsed acrimoniously because he was an icy, domineering figure determined to force her into the role of blonde trophy wife. She also accused him of behaving ruthlessly in the divorce settlement.
Their eldest child, Vivian, 18, recently filed a legal request to change her first name to reflect that she is transgender and her last name to signal she doesn’t want ‘to be related to my biological father in any way, shape or form’.
Musk, who has in the past made disparaging remarks about transgender pronouns, describing them as an ‘aesthetic nightmare’, has yet to comment on Vivian’s desertion of the Musk name.
He says he’s a devoted father but has admitted he hasn’t played a prominent role in his children’s lives when they were young, insisting there was ‘not much I can do’.
His relationship with second wife Talulah Riley, a British actress who was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and starred in the rebooted St Trinian’s films, was hardly smooth either. When they first met, his idea of flirtation was to show her photos and videos of his SpaceX rockets.
They married and divorced twice, amid reports that Ms Riley found life with Musk and his young children in his almost empty 20,000 sq ft Bel Air mansion somewhat challenging.
And Musk’s romance with another actress — Amber Heard — in around 2017 after she became estranged from Johnny Depp was revisited in Heard and Depp’s recent toxic court battle, over her allegations Depp was a wife beater.
Musk, who was rumoured to have had hair transplants to overcome a thinning thatch, later admitted he was ‘really in love’ and it ‘hurt bad’ when she broke up with him.
He’s no stranger to lawsuits himself. In May, it was reported SpaceX paid a company flight attendant $250,000 (£208,000) in settlement after she alleged Musk exposed himself, rubbed her leg and propositioned her for sex — offering to buy the keen rider a horse — after she gave him a massage on a private jet flight to London.
Musk denied her claims and insisted he didn’t have flight attendants when he flew.
Oafish with women, thin-skinned, immature (he smoked a cannabis joint in an interview, challenged Vladimir Putin to a fight and loves sharing puerile online memes) and such a workaholic that he works up to 90 hours a week, Musk is in many ways the archetypal sci-fi nerd-turned-technology baron.
However, one area where he diverges from nearly all the rest — and where Silicon Valley and other Left-wingers cannot forgive him — is coming out as a Republican. Since announcing earlier this year that he was buying Twitter and — horrors! — planned to deal with its knee-jerk Left-wing bias, the tech world has turned on him.
In the end, although he carried out his threat to walk away from the deal because he believed Twitter is hiding a vast number of fake accounts, he’s made perfectly clear his contempt for Silicon Valley’s hypocrisy and Left-wing virtue-signalling.
His admirers say the antipathy to Musk in his industry, not to mention his own unhelpfully anti-social behaviour, overshadows the considerable good he does in the world.
He may be an odd fish, they add, but which Silicon Valley visionary hasn’t been?
‘I don’t think you’d necessarily want to be me,’ Musk told a podcast host in 2018. ‘It’s very hard to turn it off.’
Some say Musk’s lonely and difficult childhood has spawned a desire for world domination. If so, an army of his own children should be a step in the right direction.