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Tesla CEO Elon Musk said last year that he had moved to Texas. He relocated Tesla’s headquarters to the outskirts of Austin earlier this year.

Elon Musk Says He Lives in a $50,000 House. He Doesn’t Talk About the Austin Mansion.

The world’s richest man, who said last year that he was selling physical possessions, has been living in a billionaire friend’s estate and shopping for his own Texas palace

When Time magazine last week named Elon Musk “Person of the Year,” it painted a spartan picture of his living arrangements. “The richest man in the world does not own a house,” the piece began.

The magazine was repeating what has become a core element of Mr. Musk’s public persona. Since last year, when the billionaire Tesla Inc. and SpaceX CEO announced he was selling almost all physical possessions in an effort to simplify his life, Mr. Musk has repeatedly portrayed himself as a man of modest tastes.

“My primary home is literally a ~50k house in Boca Chica/Starbase that I rent from SpaceX,” he tweeted this June, referring to a Texas town near the Mexican border near SpaceX’s rocket-launch facility. “It’s kinda awesome though.”

What Mr. Musk hasn’t said, and what few people know, is that for roughly a year he has also been living in a waterfront estate in Austin owned by a rich friend nicknamed “Kenny,” people familiar with the matter say—a home so extravagant that it was the most expensive listed in the Texas capital when it was sold just a few years ago.

Mr. Musk has also engaged a series of real-estate agents to show him Austin-area mansions for purchase—and toured some houses personally, some of the people say.

The Austin home where Mr. Musk stays is owned by Ken Howery, a billionaire in his own right who has known Mr. Musk for decades. Mr. Musk’s stay is so secret that some friends of Mr. Howery said they were unaware of the arrangement.

The home in Austin where people say Mr. Musk has been living.

Mr. Howery co-founded PayPal Holdings Inc. —where Mr. Musk was an executive early in his career—and later, with famed investor Peter Thiel, co-founded Founders Fund, the venture-capital fund that has backed several of Mr. Musk’s companies.

The three men are considered part of what has been popularly termed the “PayPal Mafia,” a group of former company executives who went on to further success in business.

In 2017, Mr. Musk tweeted that he had swung by a party attended by actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom to say hi to Mr. Howery.

Mr. Howery served as U.S. ambassador to Sweden during the latter half of the Trump administration. Since his term ended, Mr. Howery has been traveling the world, including chasing tornadoes and other extreme weather events as a hobby, people who know him say.

That left his home available for Mr. Musk, who said last year that he had moved to Texas. Earlier this year, he relocated Tesla’s headquarters to the outskirts of Austin.

Ken Howery, pictured in 2020, was U.S. ambassador to Sweden.


The property includes nearly 8,000 square feet of interior space on a peninsula that juts into the Colorado River at the foot of Mount Bonnell in an exclusive Austin neighborhood, property records show. It boasts a waterfront pool, jacuzzi and private boat slip, and is protected by several sets of gates and a guardhouse as part of a development called “Watersedge.”

The mansion sold for more than $12 million in 2018; real-estate agents say it would sell for multiples of that now, a reflection of the city’s booming property market. It couldn’t be determined if Mr. Musk paid Mr. Howery for use of the residence. Mr. Musk is worth around $240 billion. Neither man responded to requests for comment


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