His ultimate revenge, though, came this morning as his fortune swelled by $US2.3 billion ($3.4 billion) in the span of just 60 minutes after shares of Tesla soared on stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and ramped up production of its Model Y crossover SUV.
The electric-vehicle maker's stock, which closed at $US580.99, surged 12 per cent to $US649 in extended trading hours on Wall Street, boosting the eccentric chief executive officer's net worth to about $US36 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Bulls think Tesla is on track to be the most valuable company in the world, while bears believe it should be worth nothing at all. That dynamic isn't going away, says Dan Ives, of Wedbush Securities.
"The velocity and trajectory of the move has been jaw-dropping, even as someone who is more optimistic about the company," he added. "In 20 years covering technology it's one of the more eye-popping moves I can remember seeing."
Musk has achieved many things that no one thought he could. He has made his company profitable, mass-produced an electric car and expanded to Europe and China.