Why has Justine Musk, the estranged wife of the CEO of Tesla Motors, spoken out about their divorce and his new fiancée? It might have something to do with money, and Elon Musk's lack thereof.
Musk, the boss of and lead investor in the electric-car startup, was previously the cofounder of PayPal, a payments startup bought by eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002. So one would assume he's rolling in it. And cash for silence is the usual barter when the newly wealthy part ways with their first wives. But Justine Musk isn't taking that route. After reading a profile of Elon's current love interest, 23-year-old British actress Talulah Riley, who is 13 years her junior, she piped up:
When you are living part of your life in the public eye anyway — when you blog, when your divorce has been kicked out there for public consumption — when does this whole idea of "taking the high road" segue into this idea of being silent, silenced, even as someone appropriates your words to spin out a certain version of events?
Justine now disputes the notion, previously advanced by Elon, that the two were racing to the courthouse to file divorce papers. She says that she and her husband had completed all of three sessions of marital counseling when Elon gave her an "ultimatum":
"Either we fix [the marriage] today, or I will divorce you tomorrow."
The next morning, Justine found that her credit card had been cut off and thereby learned that he had gone ahead and filed for divorce. This is not the picture she painted last year of an amicable, mutual split.
The unraveling of the Musks' marriage appears to have happened in the space of a few short weeks in July. Elon met Talulah Riley, the star of St. Trinian's, in London on July 3. On July 18, Justine wrote about being "in the midst of some major drama." A week later, Riley escorted Elon to the opening of Tesla's auto showroom in Menlo Park. And soon afterwards, he proposed to her, Riley told the Daily Mail. A couple of weeks later, Justine wrote a biting blog entry about older men who date younger women:
I was thinking about the time a male friend, who is my age (mid thirties), and I had a bit of a spat in the driveway outside his lush hillside home. When I refused to buy into his argument and turned to go inside the house, I heard him say scornfully, "Yeah, that's it, go hang with the twenty year olds."
I thought: Dude, I'm not the one who's dating them.
Not that there aren't some mature early twentysomethings out there capable of dating anybody — just that his comment revealed more about men like him than any group of women. To wit: women that young are like children, and quality interaction happens between myself and fellow successful male peers. And yet that pool of "children" is where these same men go again and again to fish out the new girlfriend. Thus: my girlfriend is a child, but that's okay, because quality interaction happens elsewhere.
The next month, Justine went public with news of her divorce. She subsequently wrote:
We had a good run. We married young, took it as far as we could and now it is over. That's about all I can say for now, other than that it was a very sad and very necessary decision.
So why is she breaking her silence now? It could be her frustration with seeing her own words used to portray Elon as an honorable man who found a new love as his old one foundered. But it could also be that she has literally nothing to lose.
Acquaintances have been saying for some time that Elon is essentially broke, save for his illiquid stakes in Tesla Motors and SpaceX, his rocket-ship startup. We hear that he had to liquidate investments at a loss so he could participate in Tesla's most recent round of funding, and that he's couch-surfing with friends on his frequent trips from Los Angeles, where he lives, to Silicon Valley, where Tesla is based.
One hopes Riley and Musk really did bond over a mutual love of astrophysics.
(Photo of Musk and Riley via Daily Mail)