Igor Kurganov advised Elon Musk ahead of $5.7 billion charitable donation

Jon Pill
Posted on: February 16, 2022 13:21 PST

Disclosures issued by Elon Musk on Monday show that over ten days in November 2021 he donated $5.7 billion worth of Tesla stock to charity. This donation remains mysterious, with no sign of exactly how it has been or is to be put to work. However, it is most likely that the poker-pro Igor Kurganov will be influencing who gets to benefit from the donation.

Kurganov, whose Hendon Mob page has $18 million in live cashes on it, is a big proponent of Effective Altruism, a movement that focuses on using an evidence-based approach to distributing charitable donations. The idea is to make each dollar do the most good it can.

Kurganov founded the charity Raising For Effective Giving in 2014. The charity is largely run by investors and other poker players who try to put Effective Altruism into practice. Donors looking to help out can find out more on the REG website.

Musk is (publicly at least) a proponent of the same philosophy and has used Kurganov as his main contact for much of his charitable giving.

While Kurganov has been advising Musk on charitable giving for a while, it isn't entirely clear that Musk is actually all that on board with Kurganov's philosophy. When Bloomberg's Sophie Alexander broke the story of Musk's $5.7 billion dollar donation yesterday, she relayed the thoughts of Alixandra Barasch, an expert on Effective Altruism:

"If Musk’s foundation is turning to effective altruism, it hasn’t shown yet, said Alixandra Barasch [...]. What Musk has shared recently includes $10 million to Brownsville, Texas, near where SpaceX is located, to revitalize its downtown. So far, that money has gone to a grants program for local property owners, lighting projects and murals. Saving lives is the primary focus of effective altruism, and 'murals don’t do that much good in terms of the way it’s measured and defined in the movement,' Barasch said."

Why so much? Why now?

The unusual size and timing of the donation have led to a great deal of speculation on Musk's motives.

One suggestion is that the donation may be an attempt to follow up on Musk's tweet of October 31, 2021.

In this Tweet, Musk challenged the UN's World Food Program to "describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it. But it must be open source accounting, so the public sees precisely how the money is spent."

This was in response to a CNN headline that claimed the head of the World Food Program had said 2% of Musk's wealth could "solve world hunger."

Another possibility is that the news may also have been kept in Musk's back pocket for the last few months to use later as a dead cat. The announcement certainly comes at a good moment for Musk, dropping at the same time that the news broke that California is suing Tesla over alleged "rampant racism" in its factories.

One thing Alexander seems sure about is that the donation will go a long way to reducing what Musk has called "the largest tax bill in history."

Whatever the reasons for his $5.7 billion giveaway, if the donation does also solve world hunger, then it will be pretty hard to hold Musk's motivations against him no matter what they are.

It is even possible Musk just wanted to take the chance to do some serious good in the world.

Featured image source: Flickr by Steve Jurvetson, used under CC license.