When word got out last year that disgraced multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein had been known to fraternize with Silicon Valley moguls, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk was quick to release a statement minimizing their relationship: He had attended a dinner organized by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman where Epstein was present, he said, and “was at his house in Manhattan for about 30 minutes in the middle of the afternoon” at the urging of his then-wife, Talulah Riley, who wanted to meet him “for a novel she was writing.” He was “obviously a creep,” Musk told Vanity Fair.
But the social connection between Epstein and Musk may be more complicated than that, Business Insider has learned. Jeffrey Epstein was in regular contact with Elon’s brother Kimbal Musk, the tech millionaire turned restaurateur who serves on the boards of his older brother’s companies Tesla and SpaceX, according to two people familiar with their relationship.
It’s unclear how Epstein and Kimbal Musk met initially, but they saw each other occasionally because Kimbal was dating a woman in Epstein’s entourage at the time, the people said. The woman had previously dated Epstein and lived in an apartment building that Epstein’s brother owned, which Epstein had used to house people close to him, including models from Eastern Europe.
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The couple, who dated from 2011 to 2012, were set up by Epstein, the sources said. Their relationship brought Epstein into contact with the Musk family and its businesses, and it highlights how the convicted sex offender may have used the women in his inner circle to develop strategic relationships with prominent people in the world of tech and business.
“It almost seemed a little more transactional. The rumor has always been that Epstein facilitated introductions to beautiful women, looking for deal flow or access to capital,” one source familiar with the couple said.
“And the provenance of it was right down the path of that,” the source added, referring to Kimbal Musk’s relationship to the woman.
By all appearances, Kimbal Musk’s relationship with the woman was genuine despite her continued financial ties to Epstein and his role in their introduction. The woman was going through an emotional rough patch before she met Kimbal, one of the people said, and the pair had shared interests.
Kimbal Musk made his millions in the dot-com boom alongside his brother by selling their online-city-guide company, Zip2, to Compaq for $300 million in 1999. He served as CEO of the adtech company OneRiot until 2010, when he broke his neck in a snow-tubing accident and resigned to focus on the food industry.
By 2011, he was a full-time restaurateur and the head of what would eventually become Big Green, a nonprofit that teaches students about healthy eating and gardening.
Representatives for Kimbal Musk did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The woman, an American, was in one of the three couples that sources said Epstein directed to enter into same-sex marriages as part of a scheme to keep some of Epstein’s foreign-born girlfriends inside the country, Business Insider reported in August. She was also named as a beneficiary of an irrevocable trust created by Epstein that at one point totaled $50 million, Business Insider reported in December.
The woman has not come forward publicly, and because she may be a sex-trafficking victim, Business Insider is not naming her. She could not be reached for comment for this story.
Epstein was found dead in a Manhattan jail cell last year while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. His death was ruled a suicide. Epstein’s lawyers could not be reached for comment.
At least one other Epstein ex-girlfriend ended up in a relationship with a powerful man that Epstein was interested in financially: Eva Andersson, who was once Miss Sweden and dated Epstein in the 1980s, married Glenn Dubin, a hedge-fund billionaire who Epstein invested with, in 1994. Epstein told associates that he introduced the couple, a claim that Dubin’s attorney calls “demonstrably false” (the Wall Street Journal reported last year that Dubin and Andersson were already together when Dubin met Epstein.) Epstein also told associates that he had considered marrying their daughter Celina Dubin, so that she could inherit his fortune, Business Insider reported in December. Celina Dubin was also briefly named as a beneficiary of the same trust as the woman who dated Kimbal Musk. (Celina Dubin was unaware of the trust’s existence, according to a spokesperson, and she never received any payments from it. There is no indication that Epstein and Celina Dubin had a romantic relationship.)”
A birthday party with a banker’s daughter
The relationship gave Epstein an opportunity to get close to both Kimbal Musk and his more successful brother. Epstein was invited to attend Kimbal’s 40th birthday party in New York City in September 2012, according to one of the sources familiar with the relationship. Epstein ultimately did not attend that party, though members of his entourage did.
It was the day after the birthday party that Elon Musk and his then-wife, Riley, visited Epstein at his home in New York City, the person said.
According to emails reviewed by Business Insider, one of the people who was invited to the party at Epstein’s request was Alexa Staley, the daughter of Barclays CEO James E. “Jes” Staley. She was 23 at the time and working on her Ph.D. in physics at Columbia University.
Her father was a longtime business associate of Epstein. When Jes Staley worked in the personal-banking division of JPMorgan, according to The New York Times, Epstein referred dozens of wealthy clients to him. After Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to soliciting a minor in 2008, Jes Staley visited the Palm Beach, Florida, office where Epstein spent his days while out on work release.
The Staleys, through a spokesperson for Barclays, declined to comment.
Elon Musk and Ghislaine Maxwell were photographed at an Oscars after-party on March 2, 2014.
Kevin Mazur/VF14/Contributor/Getty Images
Epstein took an exclusive tour of SpaceX
A few days before the birthday party, the source said, Kimbal Musk had arranged for Epstein and members of his entourage to receive a private tour of the Hawthorne, California, factory for SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk.
It’s unclear whether Elon or Kimbal Musk were present for the tour.
The week of the tour, Epstein was in Los Angeles to attend the WWW conference, a onetime event organized by Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of the TED conference and symposium franchise.
Epstein was listed as a sponsor for the conference, which took place from September 18 to 20, 2012, alongside General Electric and William Hearst III, according to the captions on YouTube videos of talks from the event. The captions were edited to remove Epstein’s name after Business Insider reached out to RadicalMedia, which produced the videos under contract for WWW, for comment.
Epstein’s involvement with the WWW conference has not been previously reported.
Elon Musk denies that Epstein advised Tesla
It’s unclear whether Epstein had any business with Tesla or SpaceX or invested in the companies. Epstein told the New York Times reporter James B. Stewart, who met with him in 2018 to discuss a rumor that Epstein was creating a list of possible new board members for Tesla, that he had advised Elon Musk but couldn’t discuss it publicly because his reputation was “radioactive.”
A spokesman for Elon Musk told The Times that it was “incorrect to say that Epstein ever advised Elon on anything.”
The men have dined together at least twice: In addition to the dinner organized by Hoffman that Musk and Epstein both attended, BuzzFeed uncovered photos from a 2011 dinner in Long Beach, California, as part of Edge, an exclusive dinner club for intellectuals founded by literary agent John Brockman.
Among the guests at that dinner were Elon Musk and Epstein, as well as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Google cofounder Sergey Brin, who were all in town for the TED conference, according to the report. It’s unclear whether Wurman, who is listed as a member on Edge.org, was present at that dinner. Wurman did not respond to a request for comment.
Elon Musk, Tesla, and SpaceX did not respond to requests for comment.
This post has been updated to include a comment from Glenn Dubin’s attorney denying that Epstein introduced Dubin to his wife, Eva Andersson-Dubin.