The explosive new book casts new light on Musk’s turbulent tenure at Twitter and provides eye-popping information about his personal life.
It was one of the most anticipated and anticipated nonfiction publications of the year.
For weeks, excerpts from Walter Isaacson’s 600-page biography of Elon Musk (appropriately titled Elon Musk) have been made available to the public, revealing insights into everything from how Musk thwarted Ukraine’s attempts to attack Russia to why he literally shut down data centers hosting key Twitter infrastructure. However, the 600-page book has much more to say about arguably our most perplexing billionaire.
Listed below are nine revelations from the book, which was published today.
1. BEN SAN SOUCI LIKELY SAVED THE JOBS OF MANY PEOPLE
Shortly after assuming control of Twitter in October 2022, Musk enacted sweeping cutbacks to the engineering staff, primarily based on the number of changes to the app’s computer code they had made over the previous few years. Singling out who to fire was the task of a group within Musk’s retinue dubbed “The Three Musketeers”: Elon’s cousins James and Andrew Musk and a friend named Ross Nordeen.
The Three Musketeers, who were all in their twenties, attempted to sift through Twitter’s thousands of engineers and coders using crude methods such as code commits. However, Ben San Souci, a software engineer, suggested that “instead of just singling out good coders, it would be useful to find the teams that really work together.”
2. MUSK HAS HIS OWN HAIR CUT
One of the world’s wealthiest men may occasionally cut his own hair rather than pay a professional stylist. In one incident, Isaacson depicts Musk as “sporting a stark fade haircut that looked like it was done by a soon-to-be-executed barber of a North Korean leader.” Musk admits to cutting it himself, albeit he had it trimmed at the back of his head by someone else.
3. MUSK WAS NEAR DEATH IN 2001
Musk spent a short time in the hospital in 2001 for a recurring chill. A spinal tap revealed an elevated white-blood-cell count, which doctors blamed on viral meningitis. The reality was far worse: Musk was suffering from falciparum malaria, the most deadly form of the sickness. It took so long to figure out what was wrong with Musk that his condition worsened to the point where a former colleague stated in a workplace email, “He was actually only hours from death.” It wasn’t the only time Musk cheated death: at his birthday celebration, a blindfolded knife-thrower flings blades at him, according to a photograph in the book from Musk’s personal collection.
4. MUSK JOKE ABOUT ASSASSINING FORMER COWORKERS AT PAYPAL
Musk is known to harbor a grudge, and Isaacson highlights this in the book when he recalls Musk’s desire to get revenge on his former colleagues after being booted from PayPal. “I had assassination thoughts running through my head,” he told the author in the summer of 2022.
5. MUSK’S WEDDING TO TALULAH RILEY WAS… UNUSUAL
Musk married actress Talulah Riley in the Scottish Highlands in September 2010, and the luxury was typical of a wealthy tech entrepreneur. Musk’s demands for the post-wedding party at a nearby castle included a hovercraft and eels (a reference to a Monty Python sketch Musk enjoyed, but a logistical nightmare due to the permits required to transport the animals to Scotland), as well as an armored personnel carrier, which Musk and friends used to crush three old cars at the ceremony.
6. MUSK IS SUFFERING FROM MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
Musk was coerced into conducting a Tesla earnings call in 2017 after his coworkers discovered him unconscious on the floor of a business conference room. Musk claimed he couldn’t do it because he was bipolar. It was one of the first times Musk had a “open loop”—a word his friends and family use to describe his mental health problems.
7. MUSK STRUGGLES WITH BOUNDARIES
Musk took a picture of Grimes undergoing a C-section and shared it with family and friends as she lay in a hospital bed after giving birth to their child, X. Grimes demanded that Musk remove the photographs. “It was Elon’s Aspergers coming out in full,” she explained to Isaacson.
8. MUSK JOKED ABOUT CHANGING THE ELECTION IN 2024
Shortly after Twitter accepted Musk’s initial offer to buy the firm in early 2022, the entrepreneur flew to West Hollywood’s Soho Club’s rooftop restaurant, where he was grilled by his high-flying buddies about why he wanted to buy Twitter. He delivered the standard response: “I think it’s important to have a digital public square that’s inclusive and trusted.” “How else are we going to get Trump elected in 2024?” he added.
“It was a joke,” Isaacson wrote. “However, with Musk, it was sometimes difficult to tell.”
9. MUSK WANTED TO MAKE TWITTER BOYCOTTING ILLEGAL
Isaacson’s book is replete with examples of Musk’s irascible behavior. It’s regularly emphasized in the book that he frequently finds himself in “demon mode,” where he’s cruelly hyperfocused on a particular topic. One such instance occurred when Musk argued with Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of trust and safety at the time, on how to handle users calling for an advertising boycott in protest of the app’s new direction.
“I’m changing Twitter policy right now,” Musk said over the phone to Roth. “As of now, blackmail is illegal. Ban it. “Prohibit them.”
Roth was able to postpone any such modification until Elon’s conviction was overturned. “That’s exactly what happens with Elon,” she explained. “You just need to ignore it and don’t do what he says.”