The biggest billionaire feuds
Billionaires. They’re just like us. Not really. However, despite their incredible wealth, they always have time to get into petty spats or to publicly denigrate each other. And with the recent proliferation of social media, some use their platform to fire off hot takes on the topical issue of the day.
Elon Musk, everyone’s favorite severely online CEO of Tesla, Inc. and SpaceX, has no filter on Twitter. Example: “The coronavirus panic is dumb,” he tweeted during a possible pandemic. Another gem: “Coachella should postpone itself until it stops sucking,” he tweeted. Never change, Elon. And then there’s Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO and richest man in the world. In January 2019, Business Insider estimated the online retail giant founder was earning slightly more than minimum wage at the time, hauling in approximately $149,353 per minute. Does he get dental with that? Anyway, as a result of his fantastical wealth, many to view him as the avatar for the American dream, but just as many to see him as Lex Luthor come to life. Feuds come quickly for Bezos.
This much money can cause quite a few enemies, so whether they are trading barbs with each other, staring down a hostile Congress, or using their enormous wealth and power to crush things they don’t like, here are some of the recent and biggest billionaire feuds.
Donald Trump vs Michael Bloomberg
It was only a matter of time before Donald Trump (est. $3.1 billion) and Michael Bloomberg (est. $56.1 billion) started feuding after the former mayor of New York City entered the 2020 presidential race. In the classic Trump style, the nickname came quickly. “Mini Mike is a 5’4″ mass of dead energy who does not want to be on the debate stage with these professional politicians. No boxes please,” Trump tweeted. To which Bloomberg responded, “We know many of the same people in NY. Behind your back, they laugh at you & call you a carnival barking clown. They know you inherited a fortune & squandered it with stupid deals and incompetence.”
Bloomberg ratcheted up the feud by purchasing billboards in Las Vegas ahead of the Nevada debate and caucuses that read, “Donald Trump cheats at golf,” and “Donald Trump eats burnt steak” (via CBS News). Bloomberg then went on to get absolutely demolished at the debate, and his poll numbers took a massive hit.
Trump pounced after Bloomberg’s disastrous showing in democratic primary voting on Super Tuesday. “Mini Mike Bloomberg’s consultants and so-called “advisors” (how did that advice work out? Don’t ask!), are on the “gravy train” and all making a fortune for themselves pushing Mini hard when they knew he never had what it takes. Don’t pay them anymore Mike, they led you down,” he tweeted. Three days later, Bloomberg dropped out of the race.
Jeff Bezos vs Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders loves to rail against billionaires, but there is one specific target who he describes as one of the “faces of greed:” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (est. $116.9 billion). And there’s no love lost between the two, either. In 2016, the Bezos-owned The Washington Post infamously published sixteen negative stories on Sanders in sixteen hours (via FAIR).
While there are countless stories of alleged worker mistreatment and employee deaths in Amazon’s more than 100 fulfillment centers across the country, Sanders relentlessly hammers the tech CEO for these conditions and failing to pay his workers a livable wage. “Count to ten. In those ten seconds, Jeff Bezos, the owner and founder of Amazon, just made more money than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year. An entire year,” the Senator tweeted in 2018. As a result, Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign led all candidates in donations from Amazon employees.
That same year, Sanders introduced the “Stop BEZOS Act,” a bill “that would require large employers such as Amazon.com and Walmart to pay the government for food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their workers” (via The Washington Post). Less than two months later, Amazon announced that it would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all of its (non-contract) workers in the United States (via The New York Times).
Steven Spielberg vs Netflix
You rarely see legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg (est. $3.6 billion) throw his weight around in public, but he didn’t miss the opportunity to fire a shot at the streaming giant, Netflix. During a March 2018 interview with ITV News, Spielberg said, “Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie.” He added that those movies “deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar” and shouldn’t qualify for Oscar consideration just because they get what he called “token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week.”
Netflix didn’t respond, but a year later, Spielberg ramped up his criticisms again when Roma became the first Netflix original film nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. Per IndieWire, this upset Spielberg so much that he indicated he would press for rule changes at the Academy Board of Governors meeting.
At that point, Netflix had heard enough. “We love cinema,” the company tweeted. “Here are some things we also love: Access for people who can’t always afford or live in towns without, theaters. Letting everyone, everywhere enjoy releases at the same time. Giving filmmakers more ways to share art. These things are not mutually exclusive.” This, folks, is what the kids call a “subtweet.” A month later, the Academy Board of Governors declined to make the rule change Spielberg requested (via CNN). “We plan to further study the profound changes occurring in our industry and continue discussions with our members about these issues,” their statement read.
Steve Ballmer vs James Dolan
Former Microsoft CEO and Los Clippers owner Steve Ballmer (est. $56.9 billion) entered a very public feud with Madison Square Garden Company CEO and New York Knicks owner James Dolan (est. $2 billion) over the most sports billionaire of things — a new stadium (via Fox Business).
Here’s the rundown: Ballmer is proposing a new stadium for the Los Angeles Clippers in Inglewood, Calif., to serve as the future home of the franchise once the team’s lease at the Staples Center is up in 2024. The problem for Dolan? The new stadium would be located a mile from the Forum, an indoor arena owned by his Madison Square Garden Company that would directly compete with the Forum for concert and event revenue. So how did Dolan respond? He “filed lawsuits against the city” and even bankrolled a failed mayoral bid to block the construction.
“We’re on a path where we think we can build the arena, whatever happens in the litigation,” Ballmer told ESPN in October 2019. “You want to hit us in the nose? OK! We’ll keep moving. You can’t knock us down! I’m not sure they understand what they’ve gotten themselves into, from my perspective in the sense that we’ll just keep going.” Per the New York Daily News, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attempted to “pitch a compromise” and “broker a meeting” between the two billionaires, but it didn’t happen.
Bill Gates vs Elon Musk
The Porsche Taycan Turbo is an electric car that’s in direct competition with Tesla. And tech entrepreneur Elon Musk (est. $34.4 billion) makes sure everyone knows. The Taycan Turbo’s battery range is substantially lower than even the cheapest Tesla (via The Verge), and that led Musk to get a dig in on Porsche’s decision on what to name their vehicle. “Um @Porsche, this word Turbo does not mean what you think it does,” he tweeted. Petty? Yes. Funny? Also yes.
A few months later, another tech billionaire inadvertently entered the dialogue. Speaking with interviewer Marques Brownlee, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (est. $104.8 billion) said that while he appreciated Tesla for the current electric car boom, he bought a Porsche Taycan Turbo instead. “It is very, very cool,” Gates gushed.
Musk caught wind of Gates’ purchase when a Twitter user tagged him in a post. “I’m disappointed because a lot of people are going to watch the interview and they are going to trust Bill’s word for it and not even consider EVs,” the user tweeted. “Why? Because Bill Gates is a really smart guy!” Musk’s reply? “My conversations with Gates have been underwhelming tbh,” he fired back. Tell us how you really feel, Elon.
Angelina Jolie vs Oprah
Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie isn’t the high-profile star she once was, but she’s always been an activist fighting for underprivileged people around the world. As a special envoy and Goodwill Ambassador for The United Nations Human Rights Council, Jolie has been on several field missions speaking with refugees in more than twenty countries including Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Cambodia, and Pakistan. She donated $1 million to Doctors Without Borders, and her Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation is dedicated to eradicating extreme poverty, protecting natural resources, and conserving wildlife in Cambodia.
So when Oprah Winfrey (est. $2.6 billion) came calling, asking Jolie to help promote her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in 2006, you’d think it would be a natural fit. However, Jolie didn’t just politely decline, she flat out refused. Why? Remember that whole Jennifer Aniston being married to Brad Pitt when he met and fell in love with Jolie on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith thing? Supposedly, Winfrey came down on the wrong side of that.
“Oprah thought Angelina would jump at the chance because she knows how much Angelina loves Africa,” a source told Star (via Fox News). “Oprah says it’s the last time she’ll ask Angelina to help with any of her causes.” The source added, “Angelina has never forgiven Oprah for siding with Jennifer Aniston after Brad Pitt split from Jen.” At the time of this writing, their feud is still ongoing, according to an anonymous source speaking to a tabloid, so take that for what it’s worth.
Mark Zuckerberg vs Aaron Sorkin
On Oct. 23, 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (est. $63.4 billion) testified before the House Financial Services Committee, where members of Congress asked the tech giant about a variety of topics including political advertising. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez specifically grilled Zuckerberg about the lack of fact-checking of the political ads by his company. “Well, congresswoman, I think lying is bad,” Zuckerberg answered (via ArsTechnica). “I think if you’re gonna lie, that would be bad.” However, he added that the public should determine for themselves if politicians are lying or not. Spoiler: That didn’t go well.
In an open letter published to The New York Times, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who penned the Zuckerberg biopic The Social Network, blasted Zuckerberg for failing to take down blatantly false political advertisements. “Right now, on your website, is an ad claiming that Joe Biden gave the Ukrainian attorney general a billion dollars not to investigate his son,” Sorkin wrote. “Every square inch of that is a lie and it’s under your logo. That’s not defending free speech, Mark, that’s assaulting truth.”
Zuckerberg fired back with a monologue from another Sorkin movie — 1995’s The American President. “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours,” Zuckerberg wrote, in part, on his official Facebook page.
Elon Musk vs Mark Zuckerberg
Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have been trading barbs for a while now. It began in 2016 when Zuckerberg’s $200 million satellite exploded in a pre-launch “static fire” test accident while attached to one of Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets (via Vice). SpaceX released a statement blaming the explosion on “an anomaly” on the launchpad, but Zuckerberg wasn’t buying that excuse.
In a Facebook post shortly after the accident, Zuckerberg wrote, “I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Two years later, when a Twitter user brought up the accident, Musk responded, “Yeah, my fault for being an idiot. We did give them a free launch to make up for it and I think they had some insurance.”
The two tech titans also publicly feuded over artificial intelligence. Musk is vehemently against it. In fact, while speaking at SXSW in 2018, Musk went so far as to say the technology is “far more dangerous than nukes” (via CNBC). Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is optimistic about the future of the technology. Zuckerberg called Musk’s warning about A.I. as “pretty irresponsible” (via Silicon Valley Business Journal), and Musk responded to the comments in true Musk form: on Twitter. “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited,” he tweeted. We get the feeling these two don’t like each other.
Elon Musk vs everyone
Forgive us for another Elon Musk slide, but the Tesla founder with the combative personality has never met a feud he didn’t like. Feuds are his thing. Do you remember the youth soccer team that was trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand? Well, after Vernon Unsworth, a British cave diver who helped with the rescue, called Musk’s attempted involvement a “PR stunt,” Musk seemingly referenced Unsworth as a “pedo guy” in a since-deleted tweet. He later doubled down in “off the record” emails to Buzzfeed that Unsworth moved to Thailand to take “a child bride,” He also threatened Unsworth to sue him. Unsworth did just that, but Musk won the defamation suit since his initial tweet didn’t mention Unsworth by name.
In one of Musk’s wilder feuds, the brother of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar vowed to “take down” Musk for allegedly stealing his idea for a “toy flamethrower” (via Telegraph). Roberto Escobar claimed that a Tesla engineer visited the Escobar compound in 2017 where he shared “the Escobar brothers’ stories of burning cash to keep warm.” Somehow, this supposedly led to the creation of a product from Musk’s The Boring Company.
Responding to an Apple News article that laid Escobar’s plan to sue, Musk tweeted, “It’s Not a Flamethrower, Mr. Escobar.” To get around custom agencies (and we assume to troll Escobar), Musk rebranded his product. “Apparently, some customs agencies are saying they won’t allow shipment of anything called a ‘Flamethrower,'” he tweeted. “To solve this, we are renaming it ‘Not a Flamethrower.'”
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