Inside the Complicated Relationship Between Elon Musk and His Estranged Father, Errol Musk
Elon Musk—the billionaire co-founder of highly-influential companies such as Tesla and SpaceX—has rarely opened up about his relationship with his estranged father, Errol Musk, who recently made headlines when he announced he had a baby with his stepdaughter—who is 40 years his junior.
In an interview with The Sunday Times of London, the elder Musk opened up about having a baby with Jana Bezuidenhout, who was just 4 years old when he married her mother. The scandalous revelation likely isn’t going help mend any wounds between the 72-year-old and his son, Elon, who recently called Errol a “terrible human being” during his November 2017 interview with Rolling Stone. According to the interview, Elon first experienced a rift with his father when he was a child following his parents’ divorce. With all three of the Musk children staying with their mother after the split, Elon felt sympathy for his father, who seemed “lonely” and “very sad” by himself.
“Yeah, I was sad for my father,” Elon—born in Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa—told Rolling Stone. “But I didn’t really understand at the time what kind of person he was.”
Elon said he moved in with his father and soon realized it “was not a good idea.”
“He was such a terrible human being,” Elon, 46, told the magazine. “You have no idea.”
Elon added: “My dad will have a carefully thought-out plan of evil… He will plan evil.”
Though Elon said his father rarely became physically abusive, he said Errol did get violent when he was young. Errol told the magazine this only happened a single time, and that he only “smacked” his son on the “bottom.” These differing recollections of the past seem to be commonplace between the two men.
In Ashlee Vance’s biography, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” Elon warned the author not to be too trusting of his father.
“He is an odd duck,” Elon said in the book, published in May 2015. “It would certainly be accurate to say that I did not have a good childhood… It may sound good. It was not absent of good, but it was not a happy childhood. It was like misery.”
Elon said that his father had a knack for turning a good situation into a bad one, and expressed confusion about what was behind his father’s behavior.
“He’s good at making life miserable—that’s for sure… He’s not a happy man,” Elon said. “I don’t know how someone becomes like he is. It would just cause too much trouble to tell you any more.”
Vance wrote that Elon and his first wife, Justine, promised each other they would not introduce their children to Errol.
Elon—whose ambitious technological ventures and whirlwind romances with celebrities (such as Amber Heard), have led to him to be called a real-life Tony Stark—has rarely displayed emotion in public. But in the Rolling Stone profile, writer Neil Strauss noted that Elon cried while talking about his father and his conduct.
“You have no idea about how bad. Almost every crime you can possibly think of, he has done,” Elon said, though he never went into specifics about what his father allegedly did. “Almost every evil thing you could possibly think of, he has done… It’s so terrible, you can’t believe it.”
According to Rolling Stone, Errol allegedly shot and killed three out of five burglars who tried to break into his home, but he said he was cleared of all charges on self-defense. Elon did not publicly specify to Rolling Stone any other “crimes” he believes his father committed.
In a recent interview with the Daily Mail, Errol shot back at Elon’s claims and called his son a “spoilt child.”
“Elon needs to grow up,” Errol told The Mail. “He needs to get over himself. I’m not going to hit back. I’m going to wait until he comes to his senses. He’s having a tantrum, like a spoilt child. He can’t have what he wants and now I am apparently an evil monster.”
In 1995, Errol gave Elon and his brother, Kimbal, $28,000 to start their first software company, Zip2, according to Vance’s autobiography. As Rolling Stone reported, once Elon made millions after selling Zip2 and founding X.com and Paypal, he moved Errol, his then-wife and their children from South Africa to Malibu. Their relationship remaining rocky despite their close proximity to each other, and Errol soon moved back to South Africa.
“[That was] the first so-called terrible thing I did,” Errol told The Mail, referring to the move back to his home country. “Elon is upset with me. He is furious that he can’t force me to love America the way he does. I refuse to live there. I tried it, and came back home.”
In his Rolling Stone interview, Elon called Errol a “brilliant” engineer and admitted he inherited his engineering skills from his father.
“In my experience, there is nothing you can do,” Elon told Rolling Stone of coming to terms that he and his father would never have a typical relationship. “Nothing, nothing. I wish. I’ve tried everything. I tried threats, rewards, intellectual arguments, emotional arguments, everything to try to change my father for the better, and he… no way, it just got worse.”