Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post/Getty Images; Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
The Musk name might be one of the most recognizable on the planet, but little is known about its patriarch, Errol Musk.
Unlike his son, Tesla and Twitter CEO Elon Musk, Errol has mostly flown under the radar, though the father of seven has had an increasingly public profile over the last few years, largely due to his complicated family relationships. In addition to Elon, Errol is dad to son Kimbal Musk and daughters Tosca, Alexandra and Asha Rose Musk. He has also fathered two children, a son and a daughter, with his stepdaughter Jana Bezuidenhout.
Though Errol has made headlines in recent years after the births of his two youngest children, he seemingly avoids the spotlight. While he has given a few rare interviews, much of the publicly known information about him has come from his estranged son Elon or his ex-wife Maye Musk, neither of whom have had complimentary things to say about the engineer and onetime emerald mine owner.
Here's what to know about Elon Musk's estranged father, Errol Musk.
He comes from a family of adventurers
In a rare interview with Forbes, Errol revealed that his parents were the first to ever fly from South Africa to Australia in a single-engine airplane. His grandmother broke barriers of her own, becoming the first-ever chiropractor in Canada.
He claimed he was the co-owner of an emerald mine
Errol told Business Insider South Africa that he once owned half of an emerald mine in Zambia, which he claimed to have purchased on a whim. Errol and a co-pilot were flying a plane from South Africa to England to sell the aircraft — but when they couldn't make a scheduled stop in Saudi Arabia, he pivoted his plan and changed his life.
"We were going to fly into Jeddah and there was a religious holiday, and they said if we come in now we have to pay $2,000, but if we wait 10 days we can come in at no charge," he recalled to Business Insider. "So we decided to head back to Lake Tanganyika from where we were, I think we were in Djibouti."
While in Djibouti, he and his co-pilot sold their plane to some Italian nationals. "We went to this guy's prefab [home] and he opened his safe," Errol said. "There was just stacks of money and he paid me out, £80,000, it was a huge amount of money." The buyer also offered Errol the option to buy half of an emerald mine with that cash.
"I said, 'Oh, all right.' So I became a half owner of the mine," he told the outlet. "And we got emeralds for the next six years."
He says the mine made him extremely wealthy
In an interview with Business Insider South Africa, Errol admitted that, at one point, he literally made more money than he could physically handle.
"We were very wealthy. We had so much money at times we couldn't even close our safe," Errol said, explaining that one person would hold the money down while a second would slam the safe door shut. "And then there'd still be all these notes sticking out and we'd sort of pull them out and put them in our pockets."
Errol also shared how his sons got involved in the family business and recalled a time when Elon and his brother Kimbal sold a few of the emeralds from his mine to Tiffany & Co. in New York City.
"They just walked into Tiffany's and said, 'Do you want to buy some emeralds?' " he told the outlet.
Elon refuted reports that his father invested in his first company
In the biography Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, author Ashlee Vance wrote that Errol invested $28,000 in Elon and Kimbal's then-fledgling company, Zip2.
However, that — as well as Errol's claim of owning half of an emerald mine — is in stark contrast to what Elon has said about his father's wealth. "He didn't own an emerald mine & I worked my way through college, ending up ~$100k in student debt," Elon tweeted in December 2019.
Elon also denied that Errol invested in the company. "One thing he claims is he gave us a whole bunch of money to start, my brother and I, to start up our first company. This is not true," Elon told Rolling Stone in 2017. "My brother and I paid for college through scholarships, loans and working two jobs simultaneously. The funding we raised for our first company came from a small group of random angel investors in Silicon Valley."
Elon credits him for his own engineering skills
Elon has said one of the reasons he is so skilled at engineering is because of his father. "I'm naturally good at engineering that's because I inherited it from my father," he told Rolling Stone. "What's very difficult for others is easy for me. For a while, I thought things were so obvious that everyone must know this."
He claims he was acquitted of manslaughter charges after killing 3 home invaders
In 2017, Errol told Rolling Stone that while he has never intentionally hurt or threatened anyone, he once shot and killed a group of burglars at his home in Johannesburg, though he says he was cleared of all charges because he acted in self-defense.
In an interview with The Sun, Errol recalled the attack, claiming that he was confronted by a group of seven men inside his home and shot back at the intruders after they opened fire.
He was previously a politician
In 1972, Errol was elected to the Pretoria City Council in his native South Africa. He told The New York Times that as a member of the Progressive Party, he opposed apartheid. Errol also added that his children were keenly aware of the country's government-sanctioned racial segregation. "They were confronted by it every day," he said. "They didn't like it."
However, Errol also told the outlet that life in apartheid South Africa was ultimately "better" and "safer" than it is today.
He blames himself for his divorce from Maye Musk
In his interview with Business Insider South Africa, Errol said that he was to blame for his divorce from model Maye Musk, with whom he shares Elon, Kimbal and Tosca.
"I screwed up the marriage, I was totally responsible. It didn't work out too well in the end," he said. "My [former] wife doesn't speak to me, even when we're together, she won't speak to me, so we haven't spoken to one other for 37 years. She won't speak to me or engage me if we're in the same room — which we have been often."
Errol admitted to having affairs, but his ex-wife, now a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model, said the problems in their marriage extended beyond infidelity, alleging that Errol was abusive.
"Everybody I knew called him 'the Pig' because he treated me so badly in public. And I was too scared to tell anyone [about his violence]," Maye told Harper's Bazaar in 2019. "Like every abused woman, I was embarrassed, and I knew I had made a mistake, you know? ... He told me over and over that I was stupid, ugly, boring."
She added, "He was very rich, but he made sure I had nothing. Once the kids were living with me, they visited their father some weekends. He would throw out everything they arrived with, so I had to buy them all new clothes and school things. Then he'd sue me and say that I was unfit to parent."
He fathered two children with his stepdaughter
Errol and his stepdaughter, Jana Bezuidenhout, share two children. Jana was 4 years old when Errol married her mother, Heide Bezuidenhout — though he claims that he didn't consider Jana his stepdaughter, as she primarily grew up separate from the Musks. Errol and Heide had two children together, Alexandra and Asha Rose.
Errol and Jana welcomed a son, Elliot "Rushi" Rush, in 2017 and a daughter in 2019. He confirmed the birth of their daughter to The Sun in 2022.
"She wasn't planned," Errol said of his youngest child. "But I mean, we were living together. [Jana] stayed here for about 18 months after Rushi was born."
In 2018, he explained that he was helping Jana get over a breakup at the time of Rushi's conception, but he initially assumed the baby's father was Jana's ex. "We were lonely, lost people," Errol said. "One thing led to another — you can call it God's plan or nature's plan."
Though he claimed Elon and Kimbal were upset with him for fathering a child with a woman they felt was "their sister," Errol told The Sun, "The only thing we are on Earth for is to reproduce. If I could have another child I would. I can't see any reason not to."
He and Elon are estranged
"You have no idea about how bad. Almost every crime you can possibly think of, he has done," Elon said. "Almost every evil thing you could possibly think of, he has done … It's so terrible, you can't believe it."
The Tesla founder also said there was no way to repair his relationship with his father. "In my experience, there is nothing you can do," he added. "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."
For his part, Errol told the Daily Mail that Elon "needs to grow up" and "get over himself," adding, "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."