Are they friends? Enemies? Friendly rivals or bitter foes? No one seems to know for sure, but the relationship between the world’s richest two men, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, took another turn Monday on news of Elon Musk’s new acquisition.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, worth $171 billion, making him the second-richest man in the world, according to Forbes, took a shot on Twitter at the world’s richest man, Tesla CEO Elon Musk (worth $219 billion) over Musk’s $44 billion purchase of Twitter.
Musk has touted his purchase of Twitter as a good thing for the world of free speech, championing himself as a bastion for the free marketplace of ideas on a social media site he calls the new “town square.”
Bezos on Tuesday retweeted a New York Times reporter saying Musk’s purchase of Twitter would benefit China, a country not known for the promotion of free speech, in its pursuit of global influence.
The reporter suggested Tesla’s business in China could impact it’s influence on Twitter.
“Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?”
“Interesting question,” Bezos tweeted.
Bezos, whose own company has a tumultuous track record doing business in China, replied to his own tweet later, saying: “My answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity for Tesla in China, rather than censorship on Twitter.”
He then fired off another tweet, appearing to compliment Musk in which he said: “But we’ll see. Musk is extremely good at navigating this type of complexity.”
Was this one billionaire taking a jab at another, then trying to make peace? Was it merely Bezos trying to start a dialogue on the site, which Musk will now own? The history between Musk and Bezos may offer some answers.
Bezos owns Washington Post, Musk owns Twitter
Both of these mega-rich entrepreneurs now have their hand in the media game as Musk will own social media titan Twitter and Bezos owns the legendary newspaper The Washington Post.
When Bezos purchased the Post in 2013 for $250 million, similar to Musk, he painted the purchase as a billionaire crusading for the freedom of speech and the press by buying a struggling beacon of journalism, pumping funds into a newspaper at the forefront of the media’s digital age.
Musk spent $44 billion buying a social media site that has been accused of silencing voices, particularly conservatives, most notably for banning former President Donald Trump.
Billionaire space race
Elon Musk is famously the owner and personality behind the company SpaceX, which has worked with NASA to send astronauts to space and is a part of Musk’s ambitious ideals to expand human life beyond Earth.
Bezos launched the human space travel company Blue Origin and even went up to space himself in a rocket owned by the company in 2021. Musk has not yet gone up in a SpaceX vessel.
Both billionaires have gone tit-for-tat in their space race, with each lauding their own far-out ambitions for the possibilities of human space travel. Let’s just hope neither man announces plans to build a Death Star anytime soon.
Bezos, Musk and cars with no drivers
What appears to be an Annie-inspired “anything you can do, I can better” competition between Musk and Bezos extends to the world of self-driving cars, as well. Each man’s company has launched a line of vehicles that require no driver.
Tesla vehicles come equipped with an autopilot feature, one of the first companies to ever do so, that allow the car to drive and navigate itself along roadways.
In 2019, Amazon invested in the self-driving car company Aurora, which has serviced Amazon with a fleet of delivery vehicles that can navigate themselves.
When Amazon announced in 2020 it would be investing in the self-driving car company Zoosk, Musk went on Twitter and called Bezos a copy cat, using a cat emoji rather than the word.
It is hard to tell for sure if this rift between the two billionaires is for real or some tongue-in-cheek banter between the world’s two richest men, put on for the media and people of Twitter to say “see, we’re people too.”
Then again, maybe the competition is good in the long run as it appears to be pushing these moguls to new heights, in some cases literally.