Elon Musk is closing in on recapturing his title as the world's richest person since falling behind Bernard Arnault in December, thanks to Tesla Inc.'s 74 per cent rise this year.
It may take a bit longer for Musk to overtake the French luxury-goods titan, though, after disclosing this week he gave 11.6 million Tesla shares to unnamed charitable causes between August and December. The stock was worth about $1.9 billion, based on closing prices on the days Musk donated the securities.
The disclosure comes as Musk, 51, has narrowed the gap to Arnault to less than $1 billion amid signs of growing demand for Tesla's electric vehicles.
He now has a fortune of about $191.3 billion after his latest donation, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That's down from a peak of more than $300 billion in late 2021 before he decided to buy Twitter in a leveraged buyout near the peak of the tech market, but up more than $54 billion this year.
Musk, Tesla's chief executive officer and biggest individual shareholder, previously donated shares in the company in 2021 worth about $5.7 billion, making it at the time one of the largest philanthropic donations in history.
The recipient for the donation was later revealed as the Musk Foundation, which has recently provided funds to education and carbon-removal projects as well as nonprofits in the area around Brownsville, Texas, close to his SpaceX spaceport.
The 2021 gift dramatically increased the size of the foundation, which moved from California to Texas during the pandemic.
The boost in the organization's assets means Musk will have to become more active philanthropically. Private foundations in the US must spend 5% of assets for charitable purposes each year. In 2021, Musk sent about $160 million to nonprofits, by far the most he'd donated from his organization in a calendar year.
Yet despite being one of the biggest foundations in the country, Musk's charitable arm is still tiny in terms of staff. Its most recent tax forms list Musk, right-hand man Jared Birchall and Matilda Simon as directors. There are no other employees listed.
Birchall didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The largest US foundation is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which had assets of about $55 billion at the end of 2021, gave out about $6.2 billion in grants that year and has more than 1,700 employees.
Much of Musk's wealth is still tied up in Tesla stock, though SpaceX has made up a bigger share in recent years. Musk sold more than $20 billion of Tesla stock last year as he tried to shore up his buyout of Twitter.