The fortune of Tesla’s billionaire cofounder and CEO, Elon Musk, has plunged by more than $20 billion since Musk made his controversial appearance on Saturday Night Live last weekend.
Shares of Tesla have fallen 15% so far this week, lowering Musk’s net worth by $20.5 billion—to $145.5 billion as of market close on Thursday—according to Forbes’ estimates. He remains the third-richest person on the planet, just slightly ahead of Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, whose fortune stands at an estimated $127.6 billion.
Musk was worth an estimated $166 billion when he appeared on the sketch comedy show last weekend—making him the wealthiest person to ever host. He revealed that he has Aspberger’s, poked fun at his audacious business plans—and discussed the recent buzz around cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin. While Musk has publicly promoted cryptocurrency in the past, at one point on the show he called Dogecoin a “hustle.” Cryptos took a hit following Musk’s performance on SNL, with the value of Dogecoin falling more than 30% within 24 hours.
Later in the week, Musk made a sudden U-turn on his earlier statement in February that Tesla would accept Bitcoin as a payment for its vehicles. On Wednesday evening, the billionaire announced on Twitter that he was indefinitely suspending Bitcoin as payment, citing concerns about the “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions.” The price of Bitcoin subsequently plunged by as much as 17%, to below $50,000, on Thursday morning following Musk’s announcement.
Wall Street analysts have now warned that Musk’s latest moves are confusing crypto investors and causing additional volatility for Tesla’s stock, which has already struggled over the past month. Amid rising inflation fears in the stock market, shares of Big Tech companies and electric vehicle makers like Tesla have led the recent sell-off. Tesla’s stock has also come under pressure amid bad news in China, a key market for the electric car maker. On Tuesday, the company halted plans to buy land and expand its Shanghai factory, due to uncertainty around U.S.-China relations, according to Reuters.
The 15% share drop this week has wiped billions off Musk’s net worth—which consists largely of a 21% stake in Tesla plus a stake in private spaceflight company SpaceX—but the eccentric billionaire is still doing fine. Thanks to his enormous Tesla compensation plan, he was paid nearly $11 billion last year, Forbes estimates, all in Tesla stock options. The first four (out of 12) tranches of these options awards vested in 2020, as Musk steered Tesla past various market capitalization and operational milestones and its stock increased sevenfold. He has unlocked two more tranches of stock options in 2021 so far. At $145.5 billion, Musk is still nearly $110 billion richer than he was a year ago.