Elon Musk has a new title: world’s richest person

Elon Musk, the controversial and enigmatic entrepreneur who heads up SpaceX and Tesla, has reached a status that only three others have held in the past two decades: world’s richest person.

On his way to the top spot, Musk has surpassed a bevy of billionaires this year, including Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. He reached the pinnacle Thursday thanks to Tesla’s share price that has skyrocketed nearly 830% since March 2020, along with a substantive pay package that was triggered after achieving certain market capitalization and profitability milestones. In the process, Musk unseated rival Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon who held the world’s richest person position since 2017. 

Musk is now worth more than $188 billion, per Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index. Tesla shares continued their seemingly unabated climb on Thursday, trading up more than 5% to $795.75.

In true Musk fashion, he acknowledged the milestone in a tweet, noting “how strange” and “well, now back to work.”

The world’s richest person title isn’t what makes Musk’s position so intriguing. It’s the speed at which he reached it. Just a year ago, Musk was in the dregs of the world’s wealthiest list. This year, Musk was propelled forward by some $150 billion thanks to Tesla’s popping share price. Musk holds about 20% equity in Tesla. He also has some $42 billion in vested stock options, according to SEC filings.

It’s a stock that has historically suffered from volatility, with huge swings occurring after a tweet or financial update. Take 2018, for example. Tesla’s share price ended the year with about 3.8% gain. In between those two bookends of the stock market calendar — January 2 and December 31 — and the 3.8% gain they produced obfuscated a year of tumult and whipsaw-like swings in the stock price.

Tesla shares were on an upward trend in 2020. This year, and after only one decade as a publicly traded company, Tesla became the most valuable automaker in the world by market value, passing the valuations of Ford, GM, VW Group and Toyota. Tesla’s market cap is now $757 billion.