There’s nothing like a good old feud between billionaires, huh? When it comes to influencing the world with their immense powers, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos have made their mark. They are steadily on their way to taking over the world, or universe, rather.
But when it comes to ruling the universe, there can really only be one leader. That’s where the feud lies. Both Bezos and Musk have their own egos – egos that clash, of course– which has been ever so entertaining to those who read their tweets. This feud that’s been going on for over 18 years is getting juicier by the tweet.
A Race to Outer Space
Bezos and Musk have been butting heads since the mid-2000s, and their remarks to one another haven’t been the most gentlemanly. While these wealthy wackos have competed for being the person with the highest net worth, they’ve also been racing to space with their rocket companies.
Musk founded SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) in 2002, but Bezos launched Blue Origin two years earlier. Since the inception of both companies, each CEO has been vying to be the first one – since 1972 – to put humans back on the Moon.
So, how did it all begin?
Back When Bezos Was Just an Extremely Smart Joe Schmo
Back in 2000, Bezos was just another average genius walking among us. It would be several years before he became the titan that he is today. He had already launched Amazon five years prior, with the company going public in 1997. Amazon wasn’t yet the powerhouse it eventually became.
But aside from monopolizing the internet, Bezos was also deeply interested in space. Record has it that in 1982, after he graduated high school as valedictorian, he told the Miami Herald that he wanted to create colonies for millions of people… in outer space.
Musk Was Already a Multi-Millionaire
Bezos never let go of his otherworldly dreams and in 2000 launched Blue Origin, a startup focused on human spaceflight. By that time, Musk was already a multi-millionaire, but he wasn’t the leader of the tech world just yet.
As Bezos was launching Blue Origin, Musk had already sold a startup he launched with his brother Kimbal. It was called Zip2 and they sold it for $300 million (to Compaq). At the time, Musk was in the process of building PayPal, which he later sold for $1.5 billion (to eBay). Musk made $160 million on that sale.
2004: A Dinner Meeting Gone Wrong
Musk used his PayPal money to launch SpaceX in 2002. “In the beginning, I actually wouldn’t even let my friends invest because everyone would lose their money,” Musk said more recently, in 2018. “I thought I’d rather lose my own money.”
In 2004, Musk and Bezos met at a dinner meeting, when their space companies were still in their early stages. They met that evening, before any launches were planned, to discuss their reusable rocket ambitions. Needless to say, the meeting didn’t go very well. It actually started the years-long feud that grew in epic proportions.
Nine Years of Silent Rivalry
We don’t know exactly what was said during this dinner meeting, but Musk said that he “Actually did my best to give good advice, which he largely ignored.” In 2021, a photo of the two men at that dinner popped up on Twitter. Musk responded with, “Wow, hard to believe that was 17 years ago!”
From 2004 onward, Musk and Bezos seemed to keep to themselves, but their deep-rooted rivalry rebooted in 2013 when Musk tried to get exclusive use of a NASA launchpad. Bezos protested against SpaceX, trying to win over NASA and its launchpad.
2013: Musk Waits for Unicorns to Start Dancing
Bezos’s proposal was to convert the launchpad “into a commercial spaceport available to all launch companies.” Bezos later filed a protest to prevent SpaceX from using the pad. Musk then lashed out at Blue Origin and the United Launch Alliance, calling the move a “phony blocking tactic.”
Musk said Bezos’ company didn’t succeed in creating a reliable spacecraft, despite 10 years in development. He added, “Frankly, I think we are more likely to discover unicorns dancing in the flame duct.” Musk won this round as SpaceX gained the right to take over the launchpad.
2014: A Battle Over Drone Ships Begins
After Blue Origin was granted a patent for drone ships, SpaceX and Blue Origin got into a patent battle. If Bezos won, it would mean that SpaceX needed to pay to use the technology. Musk argued that the science was “old hat” – the concept of drone ships had been around for decades.
A judge sided with SpaceX, once again. In addition to all the following lawsuits, Musk and Bezos have gone informal by turning to Twitter to throw shade on each other.
2015: Musk and Bezos Take to Twitter
When Bezos launched the New Shepard space vehicle into space, he tweeted the celebratory news. Musk was unamused and felt the need to show it. He responded to the tweet, noting that this feat was nothing new.
He wrote: “@JeffBezos Not quite ‘rarest.’ SpaceX Grasshopper rocket did 6 suborbital flights 3 years ago & is still around.” Bezos waited to fire back after SpaceX landed its Falcon 9 spacecraft: “Congrats @SpaceX on landing Falcon’s suborbital booster stage. Welcome to the club!”
The billionaire club feud has become more evident, and entertaining, on Twitter.
Musk Likes to Call Bezos a Copycat
Musk is known for his outspoken ideas which he voices on Twitter, and they include all the jabs at Bezos. He’s repeatedly called Bezos a “copycat” in public forums: one time after Amazon announced its internet-beaming satellites, and again when Amazon bought the self-driving-taxi company Zoox “@JeffBezosis a copy 🐈 haha”).
Both billionaires have gone to Twitter to tease one another, usually nagging each other over reusable rockets. The feud isn’t only about space, though. Musk has made an issue about Blue Origin’s hiring practices. He’s also taunted Bezos in interviews.
Musk told his biographer, Ashlee Vance, that Bezos’ company has repeatedly tried to steal talent away from SpaceX. “Blue Origin does these surgical strikes on specialized talent offering like double their salaries,” read a quote from Musk in Vance’s 2015 biography.
“I think it’s unnecessary and a bit rude,” he concluded. Musk revealed that SpaceX even set up an email filter for the words “blue” and “origin.” And Musk can be petty, too. When the BBC asked him about Bezos in 2016, he responded, “Jeff who?”
2019: Bezos Throws Shade at Musk Over Mars
It looks like Bezos dissed Musk during a private lecture in February 2019. The discussion was mainly centered around Bezos’ plans for his rocket company and his desire to make space a place where people can live. Along the way, he hinted at Musk and his ambition to colonize Mars.
Speaking of Earth, Bezos said, “My friends who want to move to Mars? I say do me a favor: Go live on the top of Mount Everest for a year first and see if you like it, because it’s a garden paradise compared to Mars.”
From Blue Moon to Blue Balls
Musk poked back at Bezos in 2019 when Blue Origin unveiled its concept for a lunar-landing vehicle, called Blue Moon. Musk tweeted: “Putting the word ‘Blue’ on a ball is questionable branding.” The man has a sense of humor; you can’t deny that.
Musk even mocked up a screenshot of a New York Times article in which he changed the name from “Blue Moon” to “Blue Balls.” He posted it with, “Oh, stop teasing, Jeff 😉.” That same year, Musk called Bezos a copycat yet again.
2019: There’s That Copycat Again
In 2019, Musk called out Bezos again for being a “copycat” after Bezos launched a network of satellites. It came shortly after Musk already debuted prototypes (later called Starlink). It may seem like Musk has been the more aggressive one in their online feud.
But Bezos just keeps his comments veiled and tends to be more passive aggressive. He mostly aims at Musk’s biggest ambition: colonizing Mars. During his presentation for Blue Moon, Bezos called out SpaceX’s Mars ambitions with a slide about Mars that he titled “FAR, FAR AWAY.”
2020: A Multi-Billion-Dollar Competition
Things got even more combative in the spring of 2020, when both companies (and a third named Dynetics) were asked to submit designs for lunar landers to NASA. It was for a mission known as Artemis to return humans to the moon by 2024. The winner would receive a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA.
The three companies had 10 months to work on their designs and the mission would be the first time since 1972’s Apollo 17 that a manned spacecraft would be sent to the moon. Later that year, Musk took a jab at Bezos’ age.
Musk Says Bezos Is Too Old, While Bezos Softens Up
In an interview with The New York Times, then 50-year-old Musk took the opportunity to comment on Bezos’s age, saying that at 57 he was too old to ever make real progress. “The rate of progress is too slow and the number of years he has left is not enough, but I’m still glad he’s doing what he’s doing with Blue Origin.”
In December 2020, Bezos softened up a bit and even complimented SpaceX for its ambitious attempt to test the Starship spacecraft (the rocket launched thousands of feet in the air during a seven-minute test flight but exploded during landing).
2021: Musk Wins Again
Musk reigned victorious over Bezos in their space race when NASA to send humans to the Moon. SpaceX won a $2.89 billion contract to build a lunar lander that will put humans on the Moon. It will essentially put the first woman and the next man on the Moon since 1972.
At this point, any goodwill Bezos felt towards Musk was gone and he exhibited his sore loser side. Bezos filed a 50-page protest, calling NASA’s decision “flawed.” He said the decision was unfair because it “moved the goalposts at the last minute.” And, yes, of course Musk had a tweet ready in response…
Musk Says Bezos “Can’t Get It Up”
In response to Bezos’s complaints, Musk tweeted: “Can’t get it up (to orbit) lol.” Ouch. That must have hit Bezos where it hurts. But the Amazon king just kept on going on. He announced that he’d be heading to space aboard one of his own spacecrafts.
But before Bezos flew to space, Musk laughed at a Bezos meme. He reacted to a Twitter meme that was making fun of the Blue Origin CEO saying that his flight would only be sub-orbital. A Twitter user the popular meme format to put their faces onto Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala from Star Wars.
2021: Bezos Goes to Space
The meme poked fun at Bezos’ flight being on the edge of space rather than blasting him into orbit. In response, Musk tweeted, “haha.” Yet, a few days later, he showed some support with a tweet that read, “Best of luck tomorrow!”
Then, on July 20, 2021, Bezos and his younger brother, Mark, boarded Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft for an 11-minute flight. It sent the crew 62 miles above the Earth’s surface and then landed safely back on the ground. “Ever since I was 5 years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space,” Bezos said on Instagram.
2021: Bezos Sues NASA
Blue Origin took NASA to court over the multi-billion-dollar contract with SpaceX. The result was NASA agreeing to temporarily pause work on the contract. Not long after, Musk tweeted, “Turns out Besos [sic] retired in order to pursue a full-time job filing lawsuits against SpaceX …”
Note that he misspelled Bezos’ name, which could have been on purpose. Putting the space race aside, the billionaires’ feud has a new layer added to it; the men have been trading places as the world’s richest person. Since 2017, Bezos has held the crown.
Musk Becomes the World’s Richest Person
Then, in January 2021, Musk took over at the top of the list after Tesla’s stock hit all-time highs. He passed Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and obviously Bezos. Musk and Bezos have actually swapped spots at the top a few times.
Nowadays, Musk is sitting pretty at No. 1 with a net worth of $255 billion, in comparison to Bezos’ $199 billion. And whaddayaknow, Musk took yet another opportunity to poke fun at Bezos. If Bezos is a sore loser, Musk is a sore winner. He tweeted silver medal emojis at Bezos to taunt him.
A Giant Statue of the Number Two
Musk told Forbes that he planned to send “a giant statue of the digit ‘2’ to Jeffrey B., along with a silver medal.” He also said that Bezos “does take himself a bit too seriously” and admitted that he’s intentionally trying to provoke Bezos.
“In some ways, I’m trying to goad him into spending more time at Blue Origin so they make more progress,” Musk told the Financial Times. He added, “As a friend of mine says, he should spend more time at Blue Origin and less time in the hot tub.”
2022: Musk Slams Amazon’s Lord of the Rings
As recently as September 2022, Musk escalated the feud and went off topic completely when he slammed Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series. He shared his thoughts with the Twitter world, as usual, showing his distaste of the series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
“[J. R. R.] Tolkien is turning in his grave,” Musk tweeted. In another tweet, he wrote, “Almost every male character so far is a coward, a jerk or both. Only Galadriel is brave, smart and nice.” Two days before the diss, Bezos supported the show with “Go Middle-Earth!”
The McDonald’s Burger Tweet
Since we’ve covered the latest chapter in the billionaires’ feud, we can go into other details of Bezos and Musk’s lives. Let’s begin with Bezos’ recent tweet of himself eating a McDonald’s hamburger. What most people don’t know – and might get a kick out of – is that the Amazon king’s first job was at the fast-food chain.
He might be worth $154 billion now, but Bezos still enjoys the simple pleasures in life. He posted a photo of his mid-day meal with the caption, “My first job. And still the same great burger. Happy Sunday!”
He Started Out Flipping Burgers
Back in 1980, at the age of 16, Bezos was flipping burgers in a McDonald’s restaurant. It sounds cliché, sure, but the man went from flipping burgers to being one of the richest men on Earth. (Take that as a lesson, kids!)
“I was a grill man and never worked the cash registers,” Bezos told Cody Teets for her book Golden Opportunity: Remarkable Careers That Began at McDonald’s. “The most challenging thing was keeping everything going at the right pace during a rush.” He also said his manager was excellent.
A Boy on the Farm
Bezos was born in Albuquerque in 1964 to his 17-year-old mother. When he was four, his mom married a man named Miguel “Mike” Bezos who adopted the boy. Most of Bezos’ early summers were spent at his grandparents’ ranch, which is where he said he learned a lot about having a good work ethic.
He later bought the ranch and expanded it to 300,000 acres. In high school, the family moved to Miami, which is where he started working at McDonald’s. He planned to study physics at Princeton University but switched to computer science and electrical engineering instead.
A Man With a Hefty Alimony
There was a point when Bezos was working in Manhattan in the early ‘90s. It was there that he met novelist Mackenzie Tuttle, a research associate at the company D. E. Shaw. A year later, they married. After moving together to Seattle, Bezos established Amazon, in 1994.
Mackenzie is now his ex-wife (they divorced in 2019), but they have four kids together: three sons and a daughter they adopted from China. Mackenzie fared well, receiving 25% of Bezos’s Amazon shares (worth $36 billion), making her the third richest woman in the world.
Who Is Bezos Dating Now?
Bezos latest lover is a woman named Lauren Sanchez, but it isn’t clear when they first started dating. It’s been said that they ran into one another again at an Amazon Studios party in 2016 for the film Manchester by the Sea.
Sanchez comes from a news reporter and anchor background. She was an anchor on Good Day LA on Fox 11 and served as a correspondent for Extra. Recently, she’s been employed as a helicopter pilot, and established her own aerial filming firm under the name Black Ops Aviation. She’s even been a host of the reality show So You Think You Can Dance.
Musk’s Tiny House
In June 2021, a Twitter user praised Musk for using “less resources than most multi-millionaires despite working way harder.” That’s when Musk revealed to the world where he was living. “My primary home is literally a $50k house in Boca Chica/Starbase that I rent from SpaceX. It’s kinda awesome though.”
Musk’s decision to downsize was evidently “life-changing.” In an interview with the Nelk Boys, Musk addressed the “tiny house” thing. He has one of those Boxable houses, which is “right next to the rocket factory” and he uses it as a guest house.
The Man Loves to Battle on Twitter
Bezos isn’t the only one whom Musk likes to battle with on Twitter. Another feud exists between him and Jarrett Walker, a public transit policy consultant. It started at an AI conference, when Musk called out public transportation for being a “pain in the ass.”
He said that you could end up sharing a bus or train ride with someone “who might be a serial killer.” Walker fired back, accusing Musk of wanting to create a public transportation system designed for the protection of the elite. Musk’s response: “You’re an idiot.”
The Little Learner
Born in 1971 in South Africa, Musk was a keen little learner; he would often read a book a day. One day, he convinced his dad to buy him a Commodore VIC-20 (a really old computer). According to its manual, it takes on average six months to get through all the BASIC lessons.
Musk, the little genius he was, stayed up for three straight days and finished the whole damn thing. He then decided to design a video game on it. He was obviously a smart kid. But he was also bullied.
Bullied at Home and at School
Musk was teased a lot growing up, and sometimes he got physically assaulted. One time, he was beaten up so badly that he passed out and was in the hospital for an entire week. As it turns out, his father was another dark side of his life.
It looks like Mr. Musk was abusive, if not physically then at least mentally. Musk has spoken openly about many things but refuses to talk about his father. He did, however, say “He’s good at making life miserable. I don’t know how someone becomes like him.”
Becoming Silicon Valley’s Rich Guy
Musk ended up leaving South Africa on his own, without anyone. He stayed in Canada for a while – without a permanent house to live in – until his brother met him. Together, they moved to Palo Alto and started their first business.
Zip2 was like mapquest before Google Maps. The company ended up selling for $307 million. Less than a decade passed between the time he was basically homeless in Canada until he became the rich guy from Silicon Valley. This is around the time that Musk started showing his jerky side.
The Guy With the Fancy McLaren
After making his first big bucks, he bought a McLaren (one of only 62 in the world). Apparently, he drove it around the Valley so much that he started gaining a reputation for being “that” guy. Other than the fancy (and snobby) car, Musk poured all of his money into his next project.
He was working on a company that he believed would change the banking industry. This was 1999, long before internet banking became the norm that it is today. At the time, people called him crazy for thinking anyone would trust the security of the internet for online banking.
Musk Gets Ousted From PayPal
His company X.com proved to be more successful than anyone thought possible. He even beat out PayPal, his biggest competitor. PayPal’s Peter Thiel then agreed to merge with Musk’s company to become the largest shareholder.
No, Musk didn’t found PayPal, folks. While he was on a plane for his honeymoon (with his new wife, Canadian author Justine Wilson) one of the worst Silicon Valley takeovers took place. As soon as his plane landed, Musk headed right back to try to save it. What happened instead was that he was forced out as CEO. They only later rebranded as PayPal.
His Near-Death Experience With Malaria
Musk eventually went back to his honeymoon with Wilson, but he ended up falling ill with malaria in South Africa and nearly died because of it. According to one doctor, he was a day away from death. After half a year and losing 45, Musk survived to tell his story.
Then eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion, giving Musk a paycheck of $250 million. Another big payout. Anyone who read the book The PayPal Wars will think Musk was the villain of the whole saga.
On a Mission to Mars
After nearly dying, Musk decided to revisit his childhood dream: going to Mars. He checked out NASA’s website one day to find no plan or even a mention of ever going to Mars. Baffled, he made a plan. He started by going to Russia to buy a rocket himself.
As you can imagine, he was given ridiculous prices, so he chose a different path. He started studying how rockets are built. On the plane ride home from Russia, he made the decision to build the rocket himself. And thus, SpaceX was born.
Sudden Death in the Musk Household
Musk was on a mission and he was pumped. But a sudden tragedy occurred at home, which put him in another state. In 2002, his and Wilson’s first son, whom they named Nevada, died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) at just 10 weeks.
After his death, the couple used IVF to continue trying and had twins in 2004, followed by triplets in 2006. By 2008, the two got divorced. In 2022, by the way, one of the twins officially changed her last name to Wilson as she no longer wanted to be associated with Musk.
The Temperamental Boss
Meanwhile, Musk was quickly becoming known as a leader. And one with a temper, too. An employee said once, “If Elon was not happy, you knew it. Things could get nasty.” A man named Steve Davis, one of SpaceX’s greatest employees, was once given a task by Musk that seemed impossible.
It led another engineer to say it was a task that “Any other engineer at any other aerospace company would never have even attempted.” What was the task? To take a part that was quoted for $120,000 and built it on Musk’s proposed budget of $5,000.
What a Jerk
Here’s proof that Musk is something of a jerk: After Davis spent nine months and gave it his all, he was able to make the part for only $3,900. He sent Musk an email detailing his greatest accomplishment. Musk’s response? “Ok.”
Okay, so he isn’t the nicest of guys. But he is super smart. And another venture of his is to build a future of electric cars. This we can’t be mad at him for. When two guys, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, approached him with the opportunity to be the first investor in a company called Tesla, Musk was all in.
Making Tesla His New Baby
Musk had always wanted Tesla to be the image of a sustainable future. He also wanted it to be a luxury brand – not some “silly looking Prius” as he referred to it. As soon as Tesla’s first workable concept car came out, a big press event was held.
The event was a success and many purchased the car with pre-orders. But the bad news was that the press release never listed Musk as a founder. And a New York Times article also left him out. Musk was royally pissed.
It Was His Turn to Take Over
It was now his turn to plot a coup. So, he called for the board to replace Eberhard as CEO. They agreed and Musk finally took over in 2008. His reputation as a leader wasn’t perceived in a positive light, though.
In an effort to speed up the pace of the Tesla Model S design, Tesla had two sets of employees working 24 hours a day. “It’s just never enough for Musk,” one author wrote. When it comes to Musk, it seems like people either hate him or tolerate him. Sure, he’s a weirdo. But let’s be thankful this weirdo exists.
An innovative jerk but an inspiring one nonetheless.