I looked at a couple of movies recently about the mid-20th-century entrepreneur Howard Hughes. These were The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and The Amazing Howard Hughes, with Tommy Lee Jones.
Both movies told interesting stories, the first focusing on Hughes’s early years, the latter protraying his decline into eccentric old age.
What startled me was the similarity between him and our current rich visionary, Elon Musk.
Hughes made his pile selling drill parts during the Texas oil boom, then parlayed the cash into blockbuster movies, operating an airline (TWA) and making extravagant forays into aircraft design.
His six-engined Spruce Goose was at the time the largest aircraft ever built. It barely got off the ground and has been hangared ever since as an awkward reminder of Hughes’s overreach.
In a similar vein, Elon Musk got rich from the internet revolution, bought into the car company Tesla and has ambitions to be a space transport pioneer.
Both men had or are having trouble reining in their cashed-up dreams to keep pace with the reality of what they’re trying to achieve.
The Musk story is still unfolding, but how fascinating to see if the second half of the man’s life will mirror the fated trajectory of his forerunner.