- Warren Buffett helped pave the way for Elon Musk to host “Saturday Night Live.”
- The famed investor and the Tesla and SpaceX CEO have both transcended corporate America.
- Buffett and Musk have followed in the footsteps of other celebrity CEOs, experts say.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
“There’s no question that Warren Buffett and other celebrity CEOs – including a real-estate developer named Donald Trump – helped pave the way for Elon Musk to cross over from the corporate world to pop culture,” Dave Ketchen, a management professor at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, told Insider.
Buffett became one of the world’s wealthiest people by picking stocks, striking deals, and buying companies. The investor has also transcended corporate America; he’s inspired scores of magazine covers, books, and documentaries, made cameo appearances on episodes of “The Office” and “All My Children,” and continues to star in an animated children’s TV show called “Secret Millionaires Club.”
Berkshire Hathaway’s billionaire CEO has also mentored pop-culture icons such as LeBron James and Jay-Z, and campaigned for politicians including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Buffett’s face even featured on cans of Cherry Coke in China.
Musk has followed Buffett in becoming a household name. He’s made cameo appearances on “The Big Bang Theory” and “Iron Man 2,” and has attracted vast amounts of free publicity for his companies and assets such as bitcoin and dogecoin.
“People feel personally invested in Musk and his success,” Ketchen told Insider, emphasizing that many of the executive’s fans watched him turn Tesla from a scrappy startup into a $600 billion company, and reignite mainstream interest in space exploration with SpaceX.
“As corporations continue to grow and represent some of the most powerful and influential organizations in the world, CEOs have become celebrities worthy of attention,” Scott Graffin, a management professor at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, told Insider. As more CEOs realize the value of a public profile, it “almost becomes an arms race” to stand out from the crowd, he added.
Graffin highlighted former General Motors CEO Lee Iaccoca as one of the first celebrity CEOs, and General Electric’s ex-CEO Jack Welch as another major one.
Buffett and Musk are part of the same tradition, leveraging their shared talent for self-promotion to garner global fame and attention. Musk’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live” is just the latest example of that trend in action.