191007 elon musk
As his net worth has grown, Musk has bristled at criticism of billionaires and said he'd sell his homes and most of his possessions. Image Credit: Reuters

Elon Musk gifted almost $6 billion worth of Tesla Inc. stock to charity late last year in one of the largest philanthropic donations in history.

The world’s richest man donated more than five million shares in the electric-car maker from November 19 to November 29, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The gift was worth about $5.7 billion, based on average prices the days he sold the securities. The filing doesn’t name the charity and shows an unidentified trust was involved in the transaction.

The donation occurred as Musk, Tesla’s CEO, sparred with politicians including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over inequality and a proposed wealth tax. In the weeks leading up to the gift, Musk suggested he’d sell stock if the UN proved $6 billion would help solve world hunger, after the head of the organisation’s World Food Programme called for billionaires like Musk to “step up”.

A large gift to charity would help reduce what Musk has said would be the biggest tax bill in US history. Days before he completed a series of stock sales worth more than $16 billion - much of which was to cover the exercise of almost 23 million options - the CEO tweeted he would pay more than $11 billion in taxes for the year.

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Much of Musk’s wealth is tied to Tesla, which overtook Toyota Motor Corp. as the world’s most valuable automaker in July 2020 and joined a select group of companies with trillion-dollar valuations in October. Tesla’s market capitalisation has slipped since then to about $905 billion at Monday’s close. The shares advanced as much as 3.7 per cent before the start of regular trading Tuesday.

As his net worth has grown, Musk has bristled at criticism of billionaires and said he’d sell his homes and most of his possessions. With a $227.3 billion fortune, he’s more than $47 billion richer than the world’s second-wealthiest person, Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Musk has an eponymous foundation that’s become more active over recent years, with large, eight-figure gifts promised to the city near his South Texas spaceport, a $100 million competition for carbon removal and a $5 million contribution to two scientists researching Covid-19. Before then, his foundation’s largest contributions were to donor-advised funds, or DAFs, where charitable money can sit in perpetuity.

The Musk Foundation, which used to count Musk’s brother Kimbal as a director, has recently added a new face to its roster. Several grant recipients Bloomberg News spoke with have said their primary point of contact at the foundation is Igor Kurganov, a professional poker player-turned-philanthropist who is active in the effective altruism space.