The entrepreneur regained the distinction from French businessman Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of the company which owns the Louis Vuitton and Hennessy luxury brands, according to the latest data from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Musk now has an estimated fortune of $187 billion, an increase of more than $50 billion from the beginning of the year.
The rapid increase in Musk’s net worth was attributable to the soaring stock value of Tesla, in which Musk was an early investor and over which he is the current chief executive, from $108.10 on the first trading day of the year to $210.04 as of Tuesday morning, constituting a 94% increase in less than two months.
Arnault is meanwhile worth $185 billion; he is followed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is worth $117 billion, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who is worth $114 billion.
Musk, an American citizen who hails from South Africa, entered the year with a net worth of $137 billion after he became the first person in history to lose $200 billion from his fortune, according to a report from Bloomberg. He finalized the acquisition of Twitter last year in a $44 billion transaction that some analysts deemed an overvaluation of the social media company.
Some Tesla investors were concerned that the Twitter acquisition would distract Musk from his duties at the automotive firm. The company nevertheless posted record financial performance in the fourth quarter of 2022. “We achieved the highest-ever quarterly revenue, operating income and net income in our history,” the company said in an earnings report. “As we progress into 2023, we know that there are questions about the near-term impact of an uncertain macroeconomic environment, and in particular, with rising interest rates. The Tesla team is used to challenges, given the culture required to get the company to where it is today.”
Tesla meanwhile continues to expand its physical footprint throughout the United States and the world: executives unveiled intentions to construct two new factories in Nevada that will increase manufacturing capacity for battery cells, while Musk has participated in talks with officials in the Mexican government to construct new factories in the Latin American nation.
Other investors worried that the acquisition, as well as Musk’s reputation as a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist and frequent critic of the Biden administration, would alienate Tesla from its liberal consumer base. Net favorability for Tesla among Democrats decreased 20.3% between October and November, the time frame of the acquisition, according to a survey from Morning Consult, while net favorability among Republicans rose 3.9% over the same period.
One analyst asked during an earnings call whether brand damage from the acquisition has impacted demand for Tesla vehicles. Musk responded by checking his Twitter account and noting that he now has 127 million followers, claiming he is “reasonably popular” apart from “a few people” complaining. “I think Twitter is actually an incredibly powerful tool for driving demand for Tesla,” he asserted. “And I would really encourage companies out there of all kinds, automotive or otherwise, to make more use of Twitter and to use their Twitter accounts.”