Billionaire Boyz Club

Elon Musk completes his first good deed by donating billions to charity

The events leading up to his donation are characteristically performative.

Elon Musk gestures as he speaks during a press conference at SpaceX's Starbase facility near Boca Ch...

As one of the world’s most well-known billionaires, Elon Musk faces intense pressure to donate some of his riches to charitable causes. Apparently he actually did just that, completing what might be his first good deed ever.

The Tesla CEO donated approximately $5.7 billion worth of Tesla shares to charity between November 19 and November 29, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This would technically make him the second-largest donor in the U.S. last year, just behind Bill and Melinda Gates, CNN reports.

Musk first alluded to selling off some of his stock back in November, when he posted a Twitter poll asking his followers to decide whether or not he should rid himself of about 10 percent of his stock. About 58 percent of the 3.5 million respondents answered in the affirmative — which was apparently enough to convince Musk to go through with it.

Just another gag — Of all his endeavors, there are exactly two that Musk generally pulls off with ease: making ludicrous sums of cash and going for the gag whenever possible. This stock-selling endeavor started out as a gag — only a prankster would ask Twitter to decide the fate of his billions — and likely saved Musk some money in the long run, too.

The gag began at the end of October 2021, when the director of the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) publicly stated that just 2 percent of Elon Musk’s fortune could essentially stave off world hunger. Musk responded by stating that he would sell $6 billion worth of Tesla stock if the World Food Programme could explain how it would solve world hunger.

Musk never said that he went through with the WFP’s ask, but this week’s SEC filings show he donated the $5.7 billion only a few weeks after his tweets on the topic. It’s not difficult to deduce that Musk did actually follow through. That’s a gag in and of itself. The man isn’t exactly known for doing so.

Not enough to save his reputation — Musk is not exactly known for being a charitable person. Add to this the fact that Tesla was having a very bitter November and it looks a lot like Musk’s donations and tax payments are more of a scheme than solid character-building.

Musk is great at wielding his money like a weapon. He’s paying his taxes and donating some of his fortune, yes, but he’s doing so in such a performative way that it’s difficult to take this as a symptom of character-building. Most people interested in actually helping others don’t spend months tweeting about their good deeds on Twitter.

Musk’s contributions are welcome, of course. Donating money certainly comes with a lower risk of failure than Starlink help Musk has failed to deliver on. It’s not enough to fool us, though — even with his sell-offs, Musk is still worth more now than before his donations.