You would think the richest men in the world wouldn’t need to resort to squabbling in public. But Elon Musk and Bill Gates apparently just can’t help themselves. Celebrity billionaires feud on Twitter just like the rest of us.
This past weekend, Bill Gates — at $133 billion, the fourth richest — told French YouTuber Hugo Decrypte that he gives “a lot more to climate change than Elon or anyone else.”
Elon Musk — the wealthiest, with a net worth of $210 billion — responded to the comment on Twitter with a single word: “Sigh.”
That latest move represents the escalation of a rivalry that has been going for years.
Last week, Beitbart.com reported on how the men’s escalating war of words turned into a $100 million battle royale, claiming that“hundreds of millions of dollars [are] flowing from Bill Gates’ foundation to 11 of the 26 organizations that signed an open letter last month urging Twitter advertisers to boycott the company if Elon Musk restores free speech on the platform.”
This came on the heels of Musk, on April 22, tweeting an emoji of a man with a pregnant-looking belly alongside a photo of a pot-bellied Gates, and captioning it “in case u need to lose a boner fast.”
“Elon, at times, has a juvenile sense of humor,” Eric Berger, author of “Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX,” told The Post. “I’m not sure it reflects well on him. But that is his personality.”
“Bill is an opinionated guy and so is Elon,” Merlin Eller, a former Microsoft employee who co-authored “Barbarians Led By Bill Gates,” told The Post. “So [the spat] doesn’t surprise me. But I don’t think Bill particularly likes it.”
Observers say the two tech titans clash in part because of their different views on how to interact with the world.
“Elon is his own communications director — he fired his PR team — whereas Bill Gates is cushioned by a team of public relations experts,” Nick Bilton, a Silicon Valley insider and author of “Hatching Twitter,” told The Post. “Gates feels more presidential while Elon shoots from the hip.”
“[Musk] argues a lot,” Berger said. “He thinks it is important to push back. Musk is combative … he says what is on his mind and does not have much of a filter.”
And while they seem very different, they may secretly be a lot alike.
When former Bridgewater CEO Ray Dalio was writing his best-selling book “Principles: Life and Work,” he asked influential “shapers” — essentially, visionaries who can lead a team and build out ideas — including Gates and Musk to each take an hour-long personality assessment test. He later revealed that these shapers have a lot in common.
“At times, [shapers’] extreme determination to achieve their goals can make them appear abrasive or inconsiderate, which was reflected in their test results,” Dalio writes. The shapers also “ranked quite low” in one key area: “concern for others.”
On June 4, Musk Tweeted a meme with a dinosaur, a unicorn, a fire-breathing dragon and the words “The Epstein/Maxwell client list” with the caption “Things I’ll never see in my life.”
Gates has admitted that he, regrettably, palled around with Epstein before the sex offender’s 2019 suicide in jail.
The billionaires’ equivalent of a shoving match began heating up back in 2020 when Bill Gates expressed a distaste for Musk’s Tesla automobiles. During an interview with Marques Brownlee on YouTube, he talked about foregoing a Tesla for Porsche’s electric car. Unable to let the diss pass, Elon Musk responded by describing Gates as “underwhelming.”
Microsoft insiders expressed surprise to Breitbart that Gates would use his charitable arm to derail Musk. Eller, too, figures that the Microsoft founder would be beyond going after Musk with such blunt force.
“Like any sane person, Bill questions whether Twitter is a force for good,” Eller said. “But he is not one for triggering boycotts.”
That said, Gates is not shy about counter-punching when he believes that Musk has gotten out of line — like when the Tesla founder aligned himself with the disproven COVID-19 treatment hydroxychloroquine and trashed the idea of staying safe during the pandemic by working at home.
Going public with his opinions, Gates told CNBC’s Squawkbox that “Elon’s positioning is to maintain a high level of outrageous comments. He’s not much involved in vaccines.”
Musk’s Michael Jackson-referencing response, delivered on Twitter, was predictably unpredictable: “Billy G is not my lover.”
Months later, Musk appeared on a podcast and called Gates a “knucklehead,” maintaining that he himself is far from ignorant about coronavirus. As if speaking directly to Gates, he said, “We actually make the vaccine machines for CureVac, the company you’re invested in.”
And people who have worked with Gates said he’s not always an easy collaborator.
“I’ve been in his company a dozen times, including board meetings, with hordes of powerful people from Bono to multi-millionaire titans of industry. Everyone would think we had come to an agreement, and Bill would suddenly speak up and say ‘Oh no, I don’t agree with this at all,’” one powerful New Yorker told The Post. “We’d all turn around and say, ‘Wait a minute, isn’t he supposed to be on our team?!’ But in a social setting he could not be nicer.”
Key to the rivalry is that Musk takes everything personal, insiders said, whereas, for Gates many decisions are just business. And, it seems, Musk doesn’t get why the big daddy of Microsoft doesn’t show him more respect.
Things seemed to reach a fever pitch — and get financial — last month when Musk posted a Tweet stating that “Gates still had half billion short against Tesla.”
In other words, Gates — who has already bashed the idea of electric vehicles being “a practical solution for things like 18-wheelers,” which Tesla has on the market — was betting $500 million that Tesla’s stock would go down.
“Elon was legitimately pissed that Gates shorted Tesla,” said Bilton. “He see Tesla as something helping the climate and was legitimately annoyed that Gates, who purports to care about the climate, would short Tesla. Elon’s thinking would be that if Gates is worth 10s of billions of dollars, why would he short Tesla, a company that is helping the climate?”
It led to an apparently testy text exchange that somehow got posted to Twitter — with Gates acknowledging his short position and asking Musk to “discuss philanthropy possibilities.” Musk told Gates that he can’t take his “philanthropy on climate change seriously when you have a massive short position against Tesla.”
“Gates shorting Tesla may or may not have an impact on the stock [and, therefore, on Musk’s tenuous standing as the world’s richest man],” said Berger. “But Elon hates shorts and if you want to get a response from him, short Tesla’s stock.”
As Berger sees it, “Musk thinks he is doing more than anyone on the planet to improve climate change. He thinks it is disingenuous for Gates to criticize Tesla.”
Through it all, America’s other high-profile billionaire, Jeff Bezos (second richest, with $132.8 billion), has managed to fly above the fray.
“Bezos went from a very curated account from a social media team to more interesting things that seem to be done by him,” Berger said.
“But,” Berger pointed out, “Bezos has an ego as big as that of Elon Musk. Over the last month, Bezos has started to engage more on Twitter. It seems timed to Elon making his bid on Twitter.”
On May 16, Bezos snapped at the Biden administration for being overly aggressive with federal spending and, hours later, in relation to Amazon’s 25th anniversary of going public.9
According to Jeffrey Ranck, former general counsel for Microsoft, however, Twitter seems just as suitable a fit for Gates: “Bill has always been a little more circumspect [than Musk] in public. He was never comfortable speaking publicly. So 120 characters might be perfect for him.”