As Elon Musk created an international furor last week with his $44bn takeover of Twitter, workers from a Colorado hardwood floor company were making renovations to his brother’s quiet home in Colorado.
There was no answer at the five-bedroom, $7m Boulder contemporary farmhouse, where carpentry equipment lay just inside the gate on Tuesday and an ice cream cart sat next to the front door, about 150 feet from the street at the foothills of the Flatirons.
No one in Boulder seems to care that Kimbal Musk, the younger brother of Elon, lives here; the day after the Tesla CEO agreed to the Twitter deal, there was nigh a whisper about the business bombshell in his brother’s adopted hometown.
Kimbal Musk is a familiar figure here, regularly seen for years cycling or driving around in – what else? – a Tesla, the native South African usually wearing his trademark cowboy hat. But bring up his name, and every single person in Boulder equates it with only one thing: food.
Because the younger Mr Musk has made a career and reputation for himself in restaurants and sustainable food, even founding nonprofits to improve school nutrition, develop urban farming and promote education.
Unsurprisingly for a Musk, a circuitous and dramatic back story brought him to this current culinary passion. He, Elon and their youngest full sibling, Tosca, seem to do nothing by halves: Elon, 50, is a tech mogul and visionary worth an estimated $252bn; Kimbal, 49, became a well-known, inventive sustainable food advocate; and Tosca, 47, went into filmmaking, directing features and even starting her own streaming service,
There are a half-dozen step and half siblings on the side of their father, Errol, however – and one of them briefly made headlines a few years ago that overshadowed even Elon Musk himself.
The three full biological Musk siblings grew up in Pretoria, South Africa, the children of engineering consultant Errol and model/dietician mother Maye. Errol was a philanderer and abusive, according to an interview two years ago with Maye, who has become a late-in-life supermodel.
She told PageSix she “ran away” with her children and planned to make a “better life”; Elon moved in with his father two years later because he felt sorry for him and was worried he was lonely – but soon decided it “was not a good idea,” he told Rolling Stone in 2017.
“I didn’t really understand at the time what kind of person he was,” the future Twitter owner said.
Errol remarried; he and his widowed second wife, Heide, had two daughters of their own, as well as raising Heide’s three children – including a daughter named Jana, who was four when her mother married Musk.
Elon at one point lived with the stepsiblings but moved to his mother’s native Canada at 17, and Kimbal followed him after finishing high school in South Africa. He graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in business before deciding that he hated finance and corporate culture. Kimbal had an entrepreneurial spirit like his older brother – and the two of them embarked on an internet geographical mapping project and business, Zip2, which they sold in 1999 for $307m.
“I owned a relatively small percentage by then but it was enough for me never to have to work again,” Kimbal told Forbes in 2016. “As a 26-year-old kid, I had more money than I knew what to do with. So I moved to New York and bought a really nice apartment where the elevator opened up on the floor.”
He married his first wife, Jen Lewin, with whom he would go on to have three children, and indulged his passion for cooking at the French Culinary Institute – while investing in Elon’s company X.com, which became PayPal and sold to eBay for $1.5bn.
Kimbal was in New York on 9/11 and put his cooking skills to use to help first responders at Ground Zero, telling The Guardian that he’d intended to at some point return to tech but, after September 11th, he saw just how much food could bring people together and decided to open a restaurant.
He and his wife travelled cross-country to pick out the perfect location for such an eatery, settling on Boulder, Colorado, where they partnered with English chef Hugh Matheson to open The Kitchen, an upscale eatery featuring fresh and locally-sourced ingredients. There’s now another location in downtown Denver, and the restaurant group expanded to include the more casual Next Door American Eatery chain, which rebranded this year as the hipper, graffiti-decorated ND StreetBAR. In the location adjacent to the flagship Kitchen on Boulder’s pedestrian Pearl Street mall, wall art features stormtroopers wearing cowboy hats – a nod to the owner’s signature style.
“He was just in here last night with his wife and daughter,” an ND StreetBAR worker tells The Independent on Tuesday.
In addition to the restaurant group, Kimbal deepened his commitment to sustainable, healthy food production, particularly in underprivileged communities, after a near-death experience gave him “a new lease on life,” he told The Guardian.
Kimbal was on vacation with his first wife and three children in Wyoming in 2010 when he broke his neck in a snow tubing accident; he was paralyzed for two months and underwent a long, difficult recovery.
“I said I now have every excuse in the world to do what I want. And you know what? I’m going to work on food culture and help food become fun and part of people’s lives again. The traditional restaurant is more commercial-oriented. But I want community through food.”
A year after his accident, he founded Big Green, along with his Kitchen chef, Mr Matheson; the nonprofit was started with the aim of building “permanent, outdoor Learning Garden classrooms in hundreds of underserved schools across America reaching over 250,000 students every day.” Now, more than 10 years later, the organization continues to support education and offers grants.
Kimbal founded Square Roots Grow in 2016, which designs “farms with sustainability in mind, repurposing existing urban infrastructure and growing our produce inside refurbished, upcycled shipping containers. Our farms use significantly less water and land in comparison to conventional field farms. And we locate our farms in cities, resulting in shorter supply chains that reduce food miles and help minimize food waste.”
While juggling all of these endeavours, Kimbal – who divorced his first wife and in 2018 married environmental activist and heiress Christiana Wyly – also serves on several boards, including those of Tesla and SpaceX. His older brother designated him as trustee of both enterprises – meaning that, should something happen to his older brother, Kimbal would make the business decisions.
Ms Wyly, who wed Kimbal in a boho-chic ceremony with parties taking place in both Spain and her native Texas, lives with him in a home they purchased in 2018 in Boulder – a picturesque city about 30 miles north of Denver which also attracted his half-sister, Alexandra.
Ali Musk, 28, is the daughter of Errol and his ex-wife, Heide; she holds a degree in environmental science from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She currently serves at Vice President for Business Development at Solar Window Technologies, Inc, where she “brings a family legacy of innovative, sustainable ventures in renewable energy and electric vehicles,” her profile states on the company website.
It adds that Ali “is responsible for global brand development, and outreach to strategic technology partners, manufacturers, and industry influencers. Her experience with brand positioning, business development, and industry interface spans Europe, Africa, South America and the United States.”
Ali married Guy Steuart IV two years ago; he, too, is a 2016 graduate of UC Boulder, majoring in international relations and affairs before earning a masters degree in real estate at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in California.
The couple have a four-month old daughter and had been living in a modest home in Denver; last year, however, they purchased a half-million dollar property in Austin, Texas, where Ali’s husband lists his current job on LinkedIn.
Heide and Errol’s other daughter, Asha Rose – who goes by her middle name – also lists time living in Boulder on her Facebook account, though it states she moved to Langebaan, in the Western Cape, South Africa, in 2014. Six years later, she was advertising her babysitting services on Facebook.
“I am an experienced babysitter based in St Helena Bay,” she wrote in March 2020. “I am 20 years old and very reliable and responsible. I am studying to be a primary school teacher. I love children and can babysit children from the ages of 8 months and up. Reliable references on request. Please contact me for hourly rates.”
Rose is extremely active on social media and appears to currently be travelling the globe, posting pictures on Instagram in the past week from Italy and France. Earlier this month, around the time of her half-brother Kimbal’s wedding anniversary, she posted a photo with her siblings from the day, adding a heart emoji and writing: “I’m so lucky to have such amazing, successful, supportive and inspiring siblings. Love you all! #siblingsday.”
Included in the photo was her half-sister and the Musk brothers’ full sister, Tosca, now 47. Her life has focused on more artistic endeavours than those of her brothers; describing herself on Instagram as “Moviemaker & Mom,” Tosca in 2017 developed streaming service Passionflix with writer Joamy Kane and producer Jina Panebianco, which offers romantic programming aimed at mostly female audiences, from old movies to original content.
She’d long been a fan of the romance genre, she told Wired two years ago, joining her mother’s escapist guilty pleasure of bodice-ripper plots. So Ms Musk and her partners pitched the idea for such a female-focused streaming service at a romance novel conference.
Along with money from venture capitalists, 3,000 women paid $100 each to be “founding members” of Passionflix – and Ms Musk drummed up $4.75m to finance the ambitious project. Those founding members and fans are heavily involved in the process, providing detailed input to best help novel plots translate onscreen.
“Our family was an intense family,” Kimbal told Wired. “Tosca was always a gentler person who reminded us to be a little more empathetic” – and that’s the way she acts on her film sets, too, her mother told the outlet.
Passionflix movies shoot for 15 days with low budgets for a quick-turnaround; Ms Musk told Decider last year that the service had a very specific mandate.
“We are a romance channel,” she said. “We want you to go through a rollercoaster of emotions and then end with a happier, hopeful ending. You’ve had your busy day, you’ve had whatever crises that you’ve had to deal with, and at the end of the day, you want to sit there with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and you just want to enjoy this emotional ride that you’re going to go through, knowing that everyone’s going to be fine in the end, not murdered or destroyed in some horrible way.”
She’d worked in the industry in Canada and Los Angeles before going out on her own to start Passionflix because she was disillusioned with content and attitudes; like her brothers, Ms Musk decided what she wanted and went for it full-throttle.
And that single-mindedness extends to her personal life, too, showcasing how her content, while meant to fill a dearth of female-focused offerings, certainly doesn’t contradict female independent or empowerment.
“I had children by myself, had an anonymous sperm donor and I’m extremely happy, so I’m not making anything for you to get a man.” she told Decider of Passionflix’s programming.
And she has no shortage of experts in her immediate family to ask about anything from business to branding to tech.
“I certainly get a lot of advice, which is really fantastic,” she told Decider. “I don’t know how much advice they need from me. They’ve been doing their particular industries quite a bit longer.
“But my mother and my brothers are incredible supporters of what I do,” she said. “The really incredible thing is that I can go to them for advice anytime I need it, so that is wonderful.”
One person rarely mentioned in the same sentence as “support” and “advice,” however, is the family patriarch, Errol Musk – estranged from Elon not just after alleged past bad behaviour but after he fathered a child with his own stepdaughter.
Of the stepsiblings the three Musk children gained when their father married Heide, Jana was the four-year-old he raised with his second wife before the couple divorced after nearly two decades.
In 2018, Errol admitted that Jana Bezuidenhout, 42 years his junior, had given birth to a baby the two conceived “in the heat of the moment” when his stepdaughter stayed at his home after her boyfriend threw her out.
“You have to understand – I’ve been single for 20 years and I’m just a man who makes mistakes,” he told Rapport, the second-largest Sunday newspaper in South Africa.
The revelations of the baby, named Elliot, created a massive rift in the family after he told Jana’s half-sister, Ali, Errol told MailOnline in 2018.
‘I told my daughter Ali about him because I thought she would be supportive and understanding,” he said. “She said I was insane, mentally ill. She told the others and they went berserk. They think I’m getting senile and should go into an old age home, not have a life full of fun and a tiny baby.’
He told MailOnline that he barely remembered Heide, despite the nearly two-decade-long marriage, adding: ‘I have been single for 20 years. I have no step-daughters or step-sons. I have four ex-wives.’
Jana, who has a daughter from a previous relationship, lives with Elliot in the same South African city as Errol, though they are not together. She lists herself on Facebook as “in a relationship” and her most recent Instagram post – from April 2018 – asked people to text in votes for Elliot for “a baby competition.”
It’s unclear whether Jana and Elliot have any contact with the extended family; Elon, for his part, has branded his father “evil.”
“He was such a terrible human being. You have no idea,” he told Rolling Stone in an interview that ran in November 2017 – while Jana would have been pregnant.
It’s unclear exactly when the extended Musk family found out about the baby and/or pregnancy.
Elon added of his father: “Almost every crime you can possibly think of, he has done. Almost every evil thing you could possibly think of, he has done ... It’s so terrible, you can’t believe it.”
Neither Elon nor his brothers or sisters have publicly commented on the youngest addition to their sibling clan. For Alexandra and Rose, not only is the baby their half-brother; he’s also their nephew.
With the oldest Musk sibling enjoying the status of richest man in the world, however – and soon controller of one of the most influential information platforms on the planet – it’s hard to imagine that Elliot’s life, and any details of Musk clan shenanigans, will fly under the radar.
Most of the siblings, while successful in their own right, have managed to avoid becoming household names like their big brother. But as Elon’s star continues to rise, it’s anyone’s guess how long that will last.
Several members of his family have already expressed support and hopes for Twitter’s future once the oldest Musk sibling is at the helm.
In addition to retweeting many of his big brother’s messages about his plans for Twitter, Kimbal last week wrote on the platform: “Congrats bro on ensuring we maintain free speech in the world and taking bots out of our Twitter” – adding GIF from his brother’s stint hosting Saturday Night Live.
Tosca retweeted posts from both of her brothers and enthusiastic emoji-laden posts on the platform from their mother.
No one in Boulder, though, is likely to care.
“They’re too rich and famous for me to give a f***,” laughs one 22-year-old, working just a few doors down from Kimbal’s adjacent restaurants.