Elon Musk Is Not the First CEO To Buy His Other Company

June 22, 2016, 12:17 AM UTC
Tesla Introduces Self-Driving Features With Software Upgrade
Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors, speaks during an event the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. Tesla Motors Inc. will begin rolling out the first version of its highly anticipated "autopilot" features to owners of its all-electric Model S sedan Thursday. Autopilot is a step toward the vision of autonomous or self-driving cars, and includes features like automatic lane changing and the ability of the Model S to parallel park for you. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Silicon Valley is strange enough that entrepreneur Elon Musk’s electric car company just made an offer to acquire the solar company where Musk is chairman and the largest shareholder. But it’s also strange enough in that Musk is not the first to set this trend.

Enter Larry Ellison, who co-founded database software company Oracle in the late 1970s, and is also an eccentric rich tech entrepreneur. In 2011, Oracle announced it would acquire Pillar Data Systems, a data storage company majority owned by Ellison. Oracle paid no money upfront. Rather it paid later based on Pillar Data Systems meeting certain financial targets.

Musk said he recused himself from the potential Tesla-SolarCity acquisition offer, which is valued at $2.5 billion to $3 billion. He wants to avoid any appearance that he was using Tesla to enrich himself through the sale of his SolarCity shares in any deal.

Like Musk’s recusal, Oracle said at the time that its decision to acquire Pillar Data Systems was made by an independent board committee and that Ellison was uninvolved. Still, it’s hard to keep from imagining Ellison and Musk sending themselves acquisition proposals and then giggling

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Here are some honorable mentions when it comes to companies buying or investing in other businesses that have close links:

  • Apple’s acquisition of NeXT in 1997 for $429 million in cash, plus 1.5 million Apple shares for Steve Jobs, who co-founded both companies. NeXT was Jobs’ second act after he was ousted from Apple in 1985, and the acquisition marked his return to his first company.
  • Salesforce’s recent acquisition of MetaMind, a startup financed in part by Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s co-founder and CEO. Salesforce spent $32.8 million on the acquisition, according to regulatory filings.
  • Google and its VC arm’s investment in 23andMe, the genetic testing startup co-founded by the then-wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Naturally, Brin recused himself from the decision to invest in the company.

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