Time Person of the Year: Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, named most influential of 2021

By Kerry Flynn, CNN Business

    (CNN) -- Time magazine has named CEO of Tesla and SpaceX Elon Musk as Person of the Year.

"Person of the Year is a marker of influence, and few individuals have had more influence than Musk on life on Earth, and potentially life off Earth too," Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote. "In 2021, Musk emerged not just as the world's richest person but also as perhaps the richest example of a massive shift in our society."

This tradition from Time began in 1927 as "Man of the Year" and has since changed to not only recognize an individual, but also to consider the impact of a group, movement or idea that had the most influence in the past year. In 2020, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were picked together as of Person of the Year. The annual choice is not necessarily considered an honor, since the selection could have wielded negative influence. For example, Adolf Hitler was named Man of the Year in 1938.

Time also has evolved the tradition into a larger franchise by introducing additional categories in 2019. This year, pop star Olivia Rodrigo was named Artist of the Year and four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles was selected as Athlete of the Year. The title of Heroes of the Year, previously known as "Guardians," went to the scientists behind the mRNA covid-19 vaccine specifically Katalin Kariko, Barney Graham, Kizzmekia Corbett and Drew Weissman.

Time was able to add new categories because the company is no longer part of a larger magazine conglomerate with competing titles that deeply covered sports and entertainment, Felsenthal previously told CNN Business. In 2018, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne Benioff bought Time from Meredith Corp., which formerly owned other Time Inc. titles such as Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly.

Unlike previous years, Time chose not to release a shortlist of contenders for Person of the Year.

Time announced Person of the Year on its own YouTube channel, produced by its own video division, Times Studios. That unveiling is in stark contrast to years past when Time would do the grand reveal on broadcast television, partnering with NBC. In 2020, Time announced the choices on a prime time special on NBC. Earlier years, the picks were revealed in the morning on "Today."

Time is hosting an event Monday evening in New York to celebrate Time's Person of the Year and its TIME100 community, a sign of a return to normalcy for publishers that were forced to cancel in-person events amid the pandemic and instead held virtual ones.

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