ALISON BOSHOFF: Is Elon Musk’s ‘affair’ with Sergey Brin’s wife the most colossal act of personal treachery in the history of the billionaire boys’ club?
After the tumult of this quixotic year so far – in which he’s admitted to secretly fathering twins with a colleague, swooped in to buy Twitter, run away from the deal, then seen his child seek to change their name because they want nothing to do with him – you might think that can’t possibly be another twist in Elon Musk’s astonishing life story.
Yet there is. For yesterday, the Wall Street Journal aired what is surely the ultimate story betrayal at billionaire level: that Musk, the world’s richest man, had a ‘brief’ affair with the wife of his long-standing friend and sometime business ally Sergey Brin.
Brin is the world’s seventh richest man.
The affair, according to the WSJ, happened in December last year and has led to the swift collapse of Brin’s marriage to stunning brunette Nicole Shanahan, Brin’s second wife and the mother of his young daughter.
Nicole Shanahan and Sergey Brin married in 2018 but filed for divorce in December 2021 citing ‘irreconcilable differences’
Elon Musk’s alleged affair with Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s wife last year led to the divorce according to the Wall Street Journal
Shanahan works for the firm Bia-Echo, an investment firm whose interests include ‘reproductive longevity and equality’
The pair have one daughter together who was born in late 2018 (pictured in September 2021)
Brin, a popular fun-loving tech tycoon, filed for divorce from her in January, citing irreconcilable differences.
The pair had been widely regarded as the most glamorous in the tech world, not to say one of the most powerful in the world.
In the months which have followed, Brin has been steadily divesting himself of all of his investments in Musk’s many businesses.
You can hardly blame him for that.
If the reported affair is true, it’s surely the most colossal act of personal treachery in history of the billionaire boys club.
Tech genius Brin famously loaned Musk $500,000 which kept his company Tesla from going under 14 years ago at the height of the 2008 financial crisis. Musk has previously said that he’s habitually ‘crashed’ at Brin’s house when between homes or simply in the mood.
Musk with Brin (far right) in the early 2000s. The affair has reportedly brought an abrupt end to their friendship
The two men were such good friends that Brin was among those invited to celebrate Musk’s 40th birthday – aboard the Orient Express in 2010.
Elon Musk said that he wanted the party to be ‘the wildest party that the Orient Express had ever seen’ adding ‘I like wild parties.’ At the time, Musk was on his second wife and Brin still with his first.
The Wall Street Journal reported sources at a party earlier this year claiming Musk dropped to one knee in front of Brin and apologised over the affair in order to beg for forgiveness.
Brin reportedly acknowledged the apology, but still isn’t speaking regularly to Musk, the sources told the newspaper.
Brin was at Musk’s wedding to Tallulah Riley in 2010 and as a wedding gift he loaned Musk the use of the ‘Google Party Plane’ to get his guests to the event, in Scotland.
However, it seems that there is no honour among tech-nerds, at least not when it comes to Musk, one of the world’s most fascinating men.
Musk is shown in Mykonos earlier this summer. He was dateless for his day out with friends on a yacht. Right, he is hosed down by Hollywood super agent Ari Emanuel
A bullied child, autistic and troubled, some of his recent stated ambitions include the colonisation of Mars, saving the world from the effects of climate change, helping Ukraine to defeat Putin’s invading forces and allowing a direct interface between the human brain and artificial intelligence.
While his achievements in business cannot be gainsayed, he has reached his 51st year as the father of ten children and is becoming nearly as well-known for his jaw-droppingly unconventional love life as his stonking wealth ($253 billion.)
The timings of the latest libidinous eruption are such that they virtually require a colour coded power point.
For in December 2021, the month in which Musk is said to have bedded Brin’s wife, he was also celebrating the arrival of a baby girl via surrogate with his on-off girlfriend, the singer Grimes.
Grimes, who has called their arrangement ‘very fluid’, already had a son with Musk called Æ A-Xii (pronounced ‘X-Ash-A-12’). Their daughter is Exa Dark Sideræl. They are known as X and Y for short.
Musk with his ex-girlfriend Grimes, left. They have two kids together – a son, X Æ A-Xii (right with Musk) and a daughter, Y
However by the time their daughter was born, not only was Musk allegedly dallying with Mrs Brin on the side, he was also a new father via yet another love interest – former executive Shivon Zilis, who had given birth to his twins – whose names have not been revealed – in November 2021. She had apparently been living at least part time with Musk at a $4 million home in Austin, Texas.
When the news emerged, he wrote on Twitter: ‘Doing my best to solve the underpopulation crisis. A falling birth rate is the biggest danger civilisation faces by far.’
Former executive Shivon Zilis had twins with Elon Musk
Spool forward to February this year, and Musk had moved on once again to current girlfriend Natasha Bassett.
Oafish and workaholic, with a juvenile sense of humour, thinning thatch and dad bod, he is nobody’s idea of Rudolph Valentino.
And yet, even before he was wildly wealthy, Musk was attractive to women.
First wife Justine said he wooed her ceaselessly only to tell her during the first dance at their 2000 wedding, that he was the ‘alpha’ in the relationship and, if she were one of his employees, he would sack her.
Justine described him as a domineering figure who wanted a blonde trophy wife. They had five children; twins Griffin and Xavier (who changed her name to Vivian and now identifies as female), and triplets Kai, Damian and Saxon. Son Nevada died as a baby.
Vivian, 18, recently filed a legal request to change her first name to reflect that she is transgender and her last name to signal she doesn’t want ‘to be related to my biological father in any way, shape or form’.
His second wife was British actress Talulah Riley, educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and one of the stars of the rebooted St Trinian’s films.
She told an interviewer that he warmed her up to the idea of romance by showing her photos and videos of his SpaceX rockets.
Shown above is Xavier, who has since changed her name and gender to become Vivian. This pictured was taken at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland, Australia, in 2017 when she would have been 12 years old
Musk with Talulah Riley, his second wife (who he married twice) and his twin sons Griffin, left, and Xavier, right, in 2010
Elon Musk dated Amber Heard in 2017, after she had separated from Johnny Depp
They married and divorced twice, and didn’t have children. He went on to have a romance with actress Amber Heard in around 2017 after she became estranged from Johnny Depp.
Musk later admitted he was ‘really in love’ and it ‘hurt bad’ when she broke up with him. He said: ‘I’ve been in severe emotional pain for the last few weeks. Is there anybody you think I should date? Its so hard for me to even meet people. I’m looking for a long term relationship, I’m not looking for a one night stand…If I’m not in love, if I’m not with a long term companion, I cannot be happy.’
He recently laughed off secretly fathering twins with Neurolink executive Shivon Zilis, tweeting that he was repopulating earth with his many offspring. In another interview he described babies as ‘pooping machines’ and agreed that he had limited input in his children’s lives when they were small.
And what of Brin? He is far less flamboyant than Musk, but one of the most important figures in Silicon Valley. Worth around $93 billion, he emigrated from Russia to America aged six.
His background is academic – his parents were a pair of Russian-Jewish scientists from Moscow.
They had experienced prejudice in their home country, and migrated when he was six years old with help from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (a charity to which Brin gave $1 million in 2009).
Sergey Brin (L) and Larry Page founded Google in 1998 while they were PhD students at Stanford University in California
A computer whizz, his rise began when he and Stanford class mate Larry Page decided to set up a search engine company in the garage of a classmate’s sister. That woman was Anne Wojicki, and she became his first wife. The company was initially named Back Rub; it became Google.
Google would employ 55,000 people on its campus in Mountain View, California, and expanded to include the email platform Gmail, the browser Chrome, Google Maps, Google news and so forth. They also make Android, the world’s most popular mobile operating system.
There was free sushi at work, and employees could bring in their pets. The company famously pulled out of totalitarian China.
Brin made a name for himself as a genial oddball – he was always far more keen on a party than Larry Page. Page would go to Davos, Brin would cruise the ocean with celebrities.
The unofficial motto of the company was ‘don’t be evil.’
Their Google earth summit attracted speakers including a barefoot Prince Harry.
That nice guy image was dented in 2013 when Brin had an affair with a twenty-something female executive involved in Google Glasses. He and Wojicki, who had two young children, were divorced in 2015.
He had appeared to find happiness with Nicole Shanahan, and her statements to the media when their split emerged was clearly sorrowful – regretful even. Nicole said: ‘I hope for Sergey and I to move forward with dignity, honesty and harmony for the sake of our child. And we are both working towards that.’
One imagines that the global embarrassment which has now been heaped on Brin’s head will make that one of the biggest challenges he has ever faced.
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