On Saturday, November 6, Elon Musk logged onto his Twitter account and appeared to put a multibillion-dollar financial decision into the hands of millions of online voters. “Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock. Do you support this?” he asked his followers. “I will abide by the results of this poll, whichever way it goes.” Almost 58% of respondents voted in favor of the sale.
True to his word, the electric car billionaire began parting with shares just a few days later. Two weeks in, Musk has sold roughly 8.2 million shares, worth about $8.8 billion—putting billions of dollars into the famously cash-poor billionaire’s pockets, even after he used about $3 billion of the proceeds to pay taxes due from exercising some of his stock options. The sales represent 3.2% of Musk’s Tesla stake, meaning he still has 11.6 million shares—worth about $13.2 billion as of Friday’s market close—left to sell if he plans on hitting the 10% goal he set for himself on Twitter.
Although Musk has sold 3.2% of his Tesla stock so far, his share count is only down by 1.2% because he’s been acquiring new stock at the same time he’s been selling shares on the market. He has exercised options to buy 6.4 million shares at $6.24 apiece, and has sold about half of them to cover the tax bill due from exercising the stock. Musk still has 19.1 million more options, currently worth $21.6 billion, to exercise before they expire in August 2022, so he will likely be doing a lot more deals in the weeks or months to come.
Prior to this selling bonanza, Musk has dumped Tesla shares on only two occasions. In 2010, he sold roughly 1.4 million shares for $24 million shortly after Tesla went public, and in 2016, he unloaded 2.7 million shares for some $593 million, which he used to cover taxes he owed for exercising some of his Tesla options.
On Friday, Musk’s estimated net worth settled at $296.2 billion after Tesla shares jumped 3.7%, adding about $9.5 billion to his fortune in a single day. His net worth has ping-ponged recently, soaring above a previously unheard of $300 billion earlier this month before dropping by more than $50 billion after shares slid following Musk’s announcement that he would sell stock. Musk nonetheless remains the richest person in modern history, well ahead of Jeff Bezos (who is worth $221.9 billion), French fashion mogul Bernard Arnault ($201.1 billion) and Bill Gates ($139.1 billion).