Elon Musk, Bill Gates Feud Ignites Over Stock Trading

The feud between billionaires Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, and Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, took another ugly turn on September 11. Musk, upset with Gates over stock trading practices that hurt Tesla, took the opportunity to call out Gates on X, formerly Twitter. Musk explained what it means to “take a short position” when trading stocks.

Musk said the practice involves leveraging a bet against a company that the investor believes will fail. The only way to make a profit from short position trading is when the company goes bankrupt. Gates stood to make around $500 million if Tesla had gone under. Instead, he may have lost as much as $1.5 billion in the gamble.

The feud has been ongoing for years, but heated up in 2022 when Musk and Gates met at the Tesla gigafactory in Texas to discuss philanthropy. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Musk asked Gates directly at the meeting about the short position gamble. After affirming that he had in fact made the gamble, Gates allegedly apologized. Musk refused the apology and has since taken to social media to regularly lambast Gates over climate change, an issue that is central to both men.

Fortune.com reports that Isaacson’s biography of Musk states that the decision to hedge against Tesla was due to the belief that electric vehicle supply would outweigh demand, forcing Tesla into a tenuous financial position.

Musk explained that the move by Gates not only hurt his company directly, but also hurt the stock portfolio of average investors banking on the success of the world’s leading EV manufacturer. According to Isaacson, Musk called Gates a hypocrite and has stated that Gates’ climate change activism is nothing more than “window dressing.”

Musk even went so far as to tell the biographer that he believes Gates is “categorically insane,” and an a**hole.” In April, Musk posted an unflattering photograph of gates with the message, “in case u need to lose a boner fast.”

The two billionaires appear to have started their feud in 2020 over disagreements related to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Musk was well-known for controversial statements about the pandemic, including that children were immune and that the number of COVID-19-related deaths was overstated. Musk also was a proponent of the use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that has never been shown to be effective.

For his part, Gates has been much more subdued in his criticism. Gates has said that Musk “has no idea what he is doing” while discussing the possibility of building an electric 18-wheeler and has boasted that he donates more money to climate change solutions than anyone else, including Musk.

Isaacson’s biography of Musk is set for release on September 12. Early reviews show that the biography looks into many of the erratic and impulsive behaviors Musk has shown over the years and even touches on his controversial decision to shut down the Starlink satellite network over Crimea as the Ukrainian Army attempted to infiltrate and sabotage Russian positions on the peninsula.