After a problematic summer concerning his legal and personal life, tech billionaire Elon Musk has yet again made headlines for an alleged affair, this time with Silicon Valley entrepreneur Nicole Shanahan.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Musk engaged in a ‘brief affair’ with the 37-year-old businesswoman in the last half of 2021. This allegedly compromised her marriage with Google co-founder Sergey Brin — who tied the knot back in 2018 after two years of dating. According to the report, the affair also ended Musk’s friendship with Brin, which goes back several years.

Meanwhile, Musk himself has denied the allegations, calling them ‘total bs’ in a recent tweet:

All this said, who is Shanahan, and how did she come to be involved between two of the world’s wealthiest people?

Who is Nicole Shanahan?

Nicole Shanahan

Shanahan grew up in Oakland, California from modest upbringings. As the daughter of a Chinese immigrant maid, she has previously discussed her early struggles such as growing up in a financially challenging background with unemployed parents, and waiting tables as a young child.

Shanahan graduated from Washington State’s University of Puget Sound, where she studied economics, Asian studies and Mandarin Chinese. She soon earned a law degree from Santa Clara University — travelling to Singapore for a brief exchange student programme as well.

Shanahan went on to start a company called ClearAccessIP — a law-tech company that used AI to help manage patent filings. Founded back in 2013, the company went on to secure funding and major headway within the enterprise management field, before being acquired by blockchain-based tech firm IPwe for an undisclosed sum.

Apart from her work in the tech-legal space, Shanahan also started a foundation after marrying Brin, called Bia-Echo — wherein she pledged $100 million aimed to foster change in criminal justice as well as reproductive health, a personal cause that she publicly discussed having issues with, before mothering a child with Brin in 2018.

She is also an academic fellow of CodeX, the Stanford Center of Legal informatics — a major thinktank which paired data science and coding applications to the law industry.

The ‘Affair’ Aftermath

Breakthrough prize

While Brin and Shanahan were married for over three years, they announced divorce proceedings in June, citing ‘irreconcilable differences.’ The two had signed prenuptial agreements, and are currently in the process of negotiating their divorce terms — in which Shanahan seeks more than $1 billion. This will place her among the likes of billionaire philanthropist divorcees such as Jeff Bezos’ ex MacKenzie Scott, and Bill Gates’ previous partner of 27 years, Melinda Gates.

Brin himself is the world’s 9th richest man, with a net worth of $90 billion.

While Elon claims that the affair was rubbish and that Brin and him are friends, there is some evidence, the WSJ argues, to the contrary. For starters, the WSJ’s sources said that Brin ordered his financial team to liquidate his investments in Musk’s companies, following the alleged timing of the affair. This is uncharacteristic for Brin, who has previously stepped in to support Tesla with half a million dollars during the company’s struggles in the 2008 financial crisis.

Only Musk has made a statement — with Shanahan and Brin’s representatives choosing not to comment yet.

(Featured Image Credits: Tesla Inc.)