In March 2020, when equity markets tumbled and margin calls loomed, billionaire Leo Koguan was forced to sell much of his stock portfolio, including the vast majority of 12 million Tesla shares he then owned. Amid the early pandemic chaos, Koguan decided to act: he says he sold the rest of his stock holdings (including shares of Baidu, Nvidia, China Mobile and Nio) and used the proceeds to buy long-term call options on Tesla — in effect, betting the house.
It was a risky move but it paid off: Tesla shares have skyrocketed more than 1,440% since March 1. Koguan says he’s plowed trading profits back into Tesla, and that today 100% of his stock portfolio consists of Tesla shares and call options. According to bank documents shared with Forbes, Koguan owns 6.3 million shares of Tesla and over 1.8 million in-the-money Tesla call options, as of Sep. 24.
“It’s for [the] long term — you never bet short term on Tesla,” Koguan says of his investment thesis. “And I believe in the green technology.”
Koguan very publicly insists, on Twitter and LinkedIn, that he’s the third largest individual Tesla shareholder. The company did not respond to requests for comment, though a company spokesman, Martin Viecha, appears to back Koguan’s claim in a September tweet. As a non-company director who owns less than 5% holdings of outstanding Tesla stock, Koguan does not appear on any of Tesla’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Given those Tesla shares and his stake in privately held IT company SHI International, Forbes estimates Koguan’s fortune to be $8.6 billion; that number reflects a 20% discount to the Tesla holdings to take into account an undisclosed number of shares he holds in a margin account.
Koguan insists that he doesn’t care about his riches. “I spend 95% of my time not trying to make money, but doing research,” says Koguan, speaking over video with Forbes from his Singapore penthouse, which he purchased from vacuum-cleaner mogul James Dyson.
“Now,” he admits, “I spend a little bit more time on Tesla.”
Born in Indonesia, Koguan received a Master’s from Columbia and law degree from New York Law School. In 1989 he married Harvard MBA Thai Lee; later that year, the couple paid less than $1 million for a software reseller that became SHI International, a global IT provider with some 20,000 customers and over $11 billion in annual revenue. Lee continues to run the company while Koguan, an American citizen who moved back to Asia years ago but still owns a large stake in the business, serves as board chair.
According to Koguan, his belief in Tesla is grounded in his admiration for its CEO, Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest person. “I regarded myself as Elon’s fanboy,” says Koguan, “I would say he is the only person I really respect on Earth.”
Hero worship of Musk translates well to the Twittersphere, where Koguan posts updates on his Tesla shareholdings (he says he’s bought hundreds of thousands of more Tesla shares in the last two weeks) and where he ruminates about science, technology and philosophy. The 66-year-old investor has attracted a small but dedicated online following of Tesla diehards.
“We shall now enter the word KOGUAN into the dictionary. It is a verb to mean ‘accumulate $TSLA in massive quantities,’” said one such follower. “We worship you and think you’re the f**ing man,” said another, inviting Koguan to host an AMA (ask me anything) at $TSLA Lounge, a Reddit community of 2,800 followers devoted to talking about the electric carmaker. (Koguan says he didn’t participate.)
“If you’re a retail Tesla investor, then you know Leo,” said $TSLA lounge contributor and Tesla investor, @S3XY_ART, who painted a portrait of Koguan and posted it on Twitter. “He’s a legend. Also he is a little eccentric but he is very humble and down to earth.”
His eccentricities go well beyond his belief in Tesla: “I’m crazy about physics, so I created my own system,” says Koguan, referring to his KQID Time Engine, a byzantine concept geared toward “computing the secret of our universe.” Koguan says he applies KQID theory toward trading Tesla options.
When Koguan met his hero Musk at SpaceX’s headquarters in 2019, their conversation focused on general relativity and other physics theories. “Nothing about Tesla, nothing about SpaceX,” he recalls.
Koguan has embraced his status as a Tesla whale, but says he’s still adjusting to the fandom he’s received since he started talking about his Tesla investments. He only joined Twitter in 2018 and declined to speak with Forbes on previous occasions about his investments: “Just now I‘m starting to talk to the media, with the tweets and the podcasts.”
Sitting on his immense fortune of Tesla shares, Koguan says he has no plans to sell and hopes to continue making profits on call options until he recollects 12 million shares, the size of his stake in March 2020. (If he’d been able to hold onto those shares, he’d now likely be worth more than $12 billion.) Koguan’s long-term plan is more outlandish: to use his Tesla holdings — which he predicts will one day rise to $100 billion in value, nearly equal to the current net worth of Warren Buffett — to “support and develop” a new type of collective society, fueled of course by his KQID Time engine:
As for Tesla, Koguan isn’t looking back. “I’m all in,” he recently tweeted. “I live or die with Tesla.”