Thursday, April 25

Elon Musk creates a giant charity. His money stays close to home.

“What’s really striking about Musk is the disjuncture between his outsized public persona and his very, very minimal philanthropic presence,” he said. Benjamin Soskis, who studies philanthropy at the Urban Institute. While other billionaires aim for broad impact on society, Mr. Soskis said Mr. Musk’s foundation lacks “direction or real purpose, outside of his business ventures.”

Mr. Musk did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Musk and his younger brother Kimbal established the Musk Foundation in 2001, a year before the sale of PayPal, the online payments company he co-founded, to eBay for $1.5 billion. He earned more than $175 million from the sale and would endow his eponymous foundation with approximately $2 million in eBay stock.

The Musk Foundation website initially included slick animations, featuring images of satellite dishes and children in classrooms, while encouraging people to apply for grants. In 2005, however, it was erased and replaced with solid black text stating that the foundation was interested in “science education, pediatric health and clean energy.”

It contained no contact information. It is always does not.

By September 2014, Forbes estimated that Mr. Musk’s net worth was more than $10 billion, driven by the value of his Tesla stock holdings. But he gave little to his own charity. That year, according to tax returns, his foundation had $40,121 in the bank.

This aligns with Mr. Musk’s public stance on philanthropy. His for-profit businesses, he said, were his way of changing the world.