He is the nerdish genius who likes to think big and spend big –a visionary billionaire who will not rest until he has changed the world.
Elon Musk’s Tesla electric cars are already the leaders in the field. He is working on a vertical take-off electric supersonic aircraft and a ‘hyperloop’ transport system taking just 45 minutes to cross the American continent.
And he intends to revolutionise space travel with a master plan to create habitable colonies on distant planets.
Musk has started no fewer than four billion-dollar companies, so there is no doubting his talent or drive – and he’s happy to enjoy the fruits of his success with five Bel Air mansions, seven private jets and relationships with famously beautiful women, including actresses Talulah Riley and Amber Heard.
Yet there is one thing that even a £20 billion fortune cannot buy, and that is family harmony – in particular a warm relationship with his father Errol. Rarely shy of generating headlines, 46-year-old Musk has left the world in no doubt of where he stands, choosing to portray Errol in quite sensational terms.
‘He was such a terrible human being, you have no idea,’ he told an interviewer for the American magazine Rolling Stone with tears running down his face.
‘My dad will have a carefully thought-out plan of evil. He will plan evil. Almost every crime you can possibly think of, he has done. Almost every evil thing you could possibly think of, he has done. It’s so terrible, you can’t believe it.’
It is hardly surprising, then, that the two men haven’t spoken for the past 18 months – not even ten months ago when 72-year-old Errol surprised his grown-up children by fathering a boy with his much younger new wife.
Throughout this turbulence, and despite his son’s international fame, Errol has maintained a dignified silence. Until now. For when he invited The Mail on Sunday into his elegant home overlooking a wide sweep of the rocky coast in South Africa’s Western Cape, he had some choice words about their incendiary feud – and made a shocking revelation of his own: he was once charged with manslaughter for shooting dead three men who broke into his home.
He was subsequently acquitted, after pleading self-defence. But it is an episode he speculates may be the reason for Elon’s cruel words.
‘Elon needs to grow up,’ he says now. ‘He needs to get over himself. I’m not going to hit back. I’m going to wait until he comes to his senses. He’s having a tantrum, like a spoilt child. He can’t have what he wants and now I am apparently an evil monster.’
A craggily good-looking man with a 1,000-watt smile and an easy humour, Errol still flies his own plane up the spectacular West Coast and has a fishing boat parked in the garage next to his silver Bentley Continental.
A collection of family portraits is spread out on the handsome mahogany dining table: Elon with his brother Kimbal and sister Tosca, and their stepsisters Alexandra and Rose.
It is the very image of a happy family and, indeed, perhaps Errol and Elon have more in common than they would like to admit. Certainly, as Errol freely admits, the Musk family contains two huge egos, which clashed frequently during Elon’s privileged childhood.
Errol, a successful consulting engineer, and his first wife, former fashion model Maye, brought up their three children Elon, Kimbal and Tosca in luxury. Musk senior was a millionaire before the age of 30.
‘I drove them to school in a convertible Rolls-Royce Corniche, they had thoroughbred horses to ride and motorbikes at the age of 14. They were spoilt, I suppose. Maybe that’s why Elon is acting like a spoilt child now,’ he says.
Elon has described this childhood as ‘painful and isolated’, overshadowed by an absentee father who derided his eldest son’s budding scientific brilliance. Not so, counters Errol. ‘Elon has repeatedly told a story of me telling him computers were a waste of time. That’s untrue.’ Recounting early signs of his son’s intellect with genuine pride, he continues: ‘Elon has been generous enough to admit that he inherited his scientific genius from me.
‘When he was 11, he pestered me to pay a huge sum to let him attend a computer course where the first IBM PC, with mouse and keyboard, was to be presented for the first time. Groundbreaking stuff.
‘I told him to be quiet and well-behaved, to give his seat up to someone if necessary and sit on a step at the side of the stage.
‘When I came back after two hours to collect him, I found most people had left but a group had gathered at the foot of the stage. In the centre was my small son, his sleeves rolled up, talking earnestly. A professor listening to him turned to me and said, “This boy needs to get one of these computers.” ’
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Source: Daily Mail