Musk vs. Gates: Billionaire feud deepens over Tesla and climate change

Elon Musk on Saturday took a potshot at fellow billionaire Bill Gates’s belly with a crude tweet as part of his escalating feud with the Microsoft co-founder.

Mr Musk, the world’s richest man with an estimated worth near $300bn (£233bn), tweeted a photo of Mr Gates alongside a picture of a pregnant man emoji, captioning the post: “in case u need to lose a boner fast.”

The tweet followed the Tesla mogul’s apparent confirmation that leaked screenshots of a conversation between himself and Mr Gates were, in fact, authentic. He wrote on Twitter – which he’s trying to buy – that he had not personally leaked the tweets and media must have obtained them from “friends of friends”.

In the text conversation, the billionaires appear to be making a plan to meet before Mr Musk asks Mr Gates: “Do you still have a half billion dollar short position against Tesla?”

A short position means an investor anticipates that a stock price will decrease – in this case, essentially betting against Tesla stock.

Mr Gates responds: “Sorry to say I haven’t closed it out,” adding that he would “like to discuss philanthropy possibilities”.

“Sorry, but I cannot take your philanthropy on climate change seriously when you have a massive short position against Tesla, the company doing the most to solve climate change,” Mr Musk retorts.

The SpaceX founder, who is no stranger to controversy – rather, the opposite – has previously butted heads with Mr Gates over a variety of topics.

Coronavirus was a major sticking point between the two, who were both involved in efforts to combat the pandemic, but Mr Gates told CNBC in 2020: “Elon’s positioning is to maintain a high level of outrageous comments.

“He’s not much involved in vaccines. He makes a great electric car. And his rockets from him work well. So he’s allowed to say these things. I hope that he doesn’t confuse areas he’s not involved in too much.”

When it comes to electric vehicles, however, Mr Musk tweeted that his rival had “no clue” and his conversations with Mr Gates had “been underwhelming tbh”.

Both men have endured a volatile several years, apart from the pandemic and their personal feuds. Mr Musk got in trouble with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and in 2018 had to step down as chairman of Tesla, his own company; he had two children with singer Grimes who were given the impossible, headline-grabbing names of X Æ A-12 and Exa Dark Sideræl; and he is currently embroiled in an attempt to purchase and overhaul Twitter.

Mr Gates, who for decades was thought to have one of the most solid celebrity marriages, last year announced he’d be divorcing wife Melinda, whose name also thanks their charitable foundation. The shock revelation turned a spotlight on the mogul, and reports emerged of a previous affair with an employee, his “reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings,” and his pursuit of female staffers “on at least a few occasions,” New York Times reported.

Both Mr Gates and Mr Musk are also well known for their philanthropy, however, donating billions to global issues – despite their apparent texting spat regarding climate change causes.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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