August 8, 2022

Nice to see billionaires keeping their priorities straight, as usual

A series of leaked texts reveal how Elon Musk turned down working with Bill Gates over Tesla stocks. Just billionaire things.

As highlighted by the Whole Mars Catalog – a semi-parodical and comedic account seemingly dedicated to Mars colonisation and trolling – a number of texts exchanged between Musk and Gates appear to reveal how the former snubbed the fellow billionaire.

The most frustrating part is that the Microsoft founder apparently reached out to the Tesla CEO regarding “philanthropy possibilities”, but the latter turned it down due to Gates’ short position on his company.

The one time we’d actually want them working together…

As you can see, the pair are discussing the stock price of both Space X and Tesla when Musk asks, “Do you still have a half a billion short position against Tesla?”, at which point Gates confirms he hasn’t yet “closed it out”.

Put in the simplest terms, a short-term position or ‘shorting’ is when a trader sells a security (i.e. a stock or bond) first with the intention of repurchasing it or covering it later at a lower price – essentially betting against a company and banking on its value dropping to the investor’s benefit.

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Verified by Musk himself, it would seem the messages are indeed authentic and although he says he did not leak them – suggesting “friends of friends” got hold of them at the New York Times – he does suggest that he believed Gates was trying to short him by “half a billion”.

Although it is unclear when the texts were originally sent, what this does highlight is how two of the world’s richest men – who actually made money during the pandemic – apparently spurned the opportunity to do valuable philanthropic work over what looks like an increasingly petty business feud.

In fact, circling back to the New York Times, the outlet recently published a piece detailing how the world is “at the whim” of billionaires like Musk, Gates, Jeff Bezos and so on.

Homi Kharas, a senior fellow at Brookings think-tank, argues that  “for the first time in history, a small group of private individuals could, if they so choose, materially impact global development at a scale that has previously been the near-exclusive domain of governments” — the rub being that they habitually fall short of this mark.

Following the minor feud was dug back up, Musk responded in his usual fashion: by tweeting a meme mocking Gates before joking that the post was being reviewed by the “shadow ban council”.

Safe to say that despite once joking the pair were close but weren’t “lovers”, the relationship between the two tech giants has soured over time. The pair have previously been at loggerheads over issues such as covid, electric vehicles and Musk’s plans to colonise Mars.

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Neither Tesla nor the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is yet to respond to the leaked messages.

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