Elon Musk has gone public with strong criticisms of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. He’s labeled Gates “categorically insane” and an “a**hole to the core” over what Musk perceives as an unparalleled hypocrisy regarding climate change and clean energy.
This feud was ignited years back when Gates took a short position on Tesla stock, essentially betting against the electric car manufacturer’s success. “Just so that the public understands: Taking out a short position against Tesla, as Gates did, results in the highest return only if a company goes bankrupt! Gates placed a massive bet on Tesla dying when our company was at one of its weakest moments,” Musk wrote on X, his platform formerly known as Twitter.
Just so that the public understands:
Taking out a short position against Tesla, as Gates did, results in the highest return only if a company goes bankrupt!
Gates placed a massive bet on Tesla dying when our company was at one of its weakest moments several years ago. Such a…
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 11, 2023
To put this in context, shorting a stock not only banks on a company’s failure but actively drives the stock down, hurting everyday investors. Gates’s gamble could have discouraged financial backing for Tesla, undermining the company’s work toward sustainable energy solutions.
Musk continued to reveal his distaste for Gates, writing, “The lack of self-awareness and hypocrisy of Gates who had the nerve to ask me to donate to his mostly window-dressing environmental causes, while simultaneously aiming to make $500M from Tesla’s demise, boggles the mind.”
The irony is palpable. Bill Gates has positioned himself as an advocate for fighting climate change. Yet he’s trying to profit off the decline of a leading company in the clean energy space. In his typically brash manner, Musk questions this kind of double standard. “How can someone say they are passionate about fighting climate change and then do something that reduced the overall investment in the company doing the most? It’s pure hypocrisy,” he told biographer Walter Isaacson.
Despite Gates losing $1.5 billion by shorting Tesla stock and offering an apology to Musk, the tech visionary was not swayed. Musk was keen to point out that Gates still has a massive short position against Tesla. “At this point, I am convinced that he is categorically insane (and an a**hole to the core). I did actually want to like him (sigh),” he messaged Isaacson, according to Forbes.com.
So, why is this public spat significant? It serves as a case study of conflicting ethics in the corporate realm, particularly when these powerful figures are influential in shaping public policy and perception. For Gates to champion environmental causes while also betting against a leader in the renewable energy sector is questionable. For Musk, this is more than a personal insult; it’s a betrayal of shared values.