In a revealing account from Walter Isaacson’s upcoming biography “Elon Musk,” set to be published on September 12, a meeting between tech titans Bill Gates and Elon Musk in early 2022 sheds light on their interactions, differing mindsets, and even a stock market clash.
During their meeting, Gates, focused on philanthropy and climate change, suggested a discussion with Musk, who had recently put $5.7 billion into a charitable fund due to stock sales for tax reasons. The meeting was set up in Austin, where Musk, known for his unconventional approach, didn’t have a scheduler, and Gates contacted him directly.
As they toured a factory together, Gates challenged Musk’s views on batteries, solar energy, and Mars colonization. Gates presented data to support his positions but found himself impressed by Musk’s factory and SpaceX’s Starlink satellite project, acknowledging that Starlink fulfilled an idea he had pursued years earlier.
Their conversation eventually turned to philanthropy, with Musk expressing skepticism about its impact and favoring investment in Tesla for addressing climate change. Gates countered with five philanthropic projects, including refugee support, education, and climate-resilient genetically modified seeds. Gates offered to provide Musk with detailed descriptions of these ideas.
However, a contentious issue emerged during the meeting: Gates had shorted Tesla stock, betting it would decrease in value and losing $1.5 billion by the time he arrived in Austin. Musk, who strongly disliked short-sellers, was furious. Gates apologized, but Musk remained resentful.
Their differing mindsets became apparent in this clash. Gates had shorted Tesla as a financial maneuver, while Musk believed in Tesla’s mission to combat climate change and saw shorting the company as hypocritical.
Gates subsequently sent Musk the promised philanthropy paper but received a terse response from Musk, questioning Gates’ commitment to climate philanthropy while maintaining a short position against Tesla.
Their exchange escalated, with Musk resorting to Twitter to mock Gates’ appearance, while Gates remained puzzled by Musk’s strong reaction. Musk described Gates as “categorically insane” and expressed disappointment in their strained relationship.
Despite their differences, Gates acknowledged Musk’s impact on science and innovation, emphasizing his significant contributions to pushing boundaries in these fields.
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