Elon Musk was a successful internet entrepreneur long before the first Tesla Model X rolled off the assembly line and SpaceX fired its first rocket into orbit. Now, Musk has reclaimed a bit of that internet history for himself by purchasing the defunct domain name X.com from his former employer PayPal, which confirmed the purchase to Business Insider after internet domain blog Domain Investing reported on the purchase earlier today. "We are delighted to sell the domain X.com back to its previous owner, Elon Musk," a PayPal spokesperson said in a statement given to BI.
To understand the significance of the URL, you have to dial all the way back to 2000, when Musk’s online financial services company X.com merged with Confinity, which at the time operated a little-known money transfer service called PayPal. Confinity was co-founded by Peter Thiel and Max Levchin, now notable internet entrepreneurs and investors — Thiel became a billionaire by investing early in Facebook, while Levchin went on to help found Yelp and currently operates a digital loan service called Affirm.
Back when the two companies merged, it was decided by investors and board members that X.com had more brand recognition than Confinity. However, the entire company was rebranded as PayPal in 2001, a year after Musk left the company over disagreements with other executive members. But PayPal later went public and got scooped up by Ebay for $1.5 billion in 2002, netting Musk somewhere in the range of $160 to $180 million after taxes.
Thanks PayPal for allowing me to buy back https://t.co/bOUOejO16Y! No plans right now, but it has great sentimental value to me.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 11, 2017
Fast forward a decade and a half — and three multi-billion-dollar enterprises in the electric car, solar energy, and space transport industries later — and Musk is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet. With a net worth of more than $15.3 billion thanks to his holdings in Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity, Musk can purchase whatever he likes, including defunct domain names.
X.com likely didn’t come for cheap, though PayPal isn’t saying just how much Musk paid and Musk hasn’t disclosed what he plans to do with it. But his car company does have a Model X, and the name did clearly influence how he branded his space venture back in 2002. So we’ll see if the URL gets used for something car or rocket-related in the future.