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by John Cadogan

Here’s how, apparently: Start with a really big fortune, then begin your very own green car company. You should have a small fortune in no time – cue the super-wealthy whiz-kid example…

Elon Musk, the multi-millionaire founder of Tesla Motors recently filed court documents to the effect that he’s strapped for cash, and has been surviving these past few months on personal loans from rich friends. Apparently he’s been spending about US$200,000 a month but bringing in only about US$8000.

He’s down to his last US$600,000. That’s gotta hurt, right?

It’s increasingly the American way. But an amazing achievement nonetheless, given the US Government’s recent proclivity to sling billions of greenbacks at emerging green car tech.

Musk sold another company you might have heard of – PayPal – to eBay for US$1.5 billion back in 2002. That must’ve felt good. He was the founder of PayPal, and also the company’s largest shareholder at the time of the sale, holding 11.7 per cent of PayPal’s shares. Enough to live large for, subjectively, eternity – or so it seems.

He’s a smart boy, too. He has degrees in economics and physics. For what it’s worth, Musk was also the inspiration for director Jon Favreau’s and actor Robert Downey Junior’s portrayal of Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies.

Unfortunately, according to CNN Money and Forbes this week, Musk appears now to be bereft of cash – which could be a problem for Tesla, in which he is not only the co-founder but also CEO, chief product architect and lead financier.

The announcement comes at a crucial time for Tesla. Last week, Toyota announced it would ante-up US$50 million to invest in Tesla, while Tesla has its sights set on acquiring one of Toyota’s plants (at a time when Toyota has spare production capacity to burn).

But the Toyota cash isn’t confirmed until Tesla floats some shares to the public – so the big deal’s way up in the air, with no date set on the initial public offering.

Perhaps it’s just a bankruptcy of convenience. Mr Musk is getting divorced right now – from sci-fi novelist Justine Musk. Good personal timing to be down to your last $600k, then – but maybe a bad omen for Tesla.

And also a warning to you about the pitfalls of starting a car company in the garage at home. You can dream such romantic notions – just don’t act them out. You’ve seen what can happen






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