Tesla CEO Elon Musk says he confronted fellow billionaire Bill Gates about whether he shorted Tesla’s stock. Musk is seen here at the Tesla Giga Texas, which is producing the “Cyber Rodeo” opening party on April 7, 2022.
Suzanne Cordeiro | AFP | Getty Images
Elon Musk has accused Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates of shorting Tesla.
In a tweet Friday, Tesla’s CEO admitted that he asked Gates if he short-selling shares in the electric car maker. When investors short a stock, they bet that the price of the asset will fall.
“I heard from several people at TED that Gates still had half a billion in short against Tesla, and that’s why I asked him, so it’s not exactly top secret,” Musk said in the tweet.
He answered a Twitter user’s question on whether a screengrab of a presumed sms conversation between the two billionaires was genuine.
The Tesla boss’s response was, “Yeah, but I did not leak it to NYT. They must have gotten it through friends of friends.”
The account that asked for the text messages, @wholemarsblog, strongly promotes Tesla and Elon Musk, and is among the few handles that Musk interacts with the most on Twitter.
The person who runs @wholemarsblog, Omar Qazi, is a co-defendant with Elon Musk in a defamation and harassment lawsuit filed by Aaron Greenspan, the founder of the Plainsite database for public records, who has also shorted Tesla shares and been a vocal critic by Elon Musk.
In the text exchange, which could not be confirmed independently by CNBC, Musk Gates asked: “Do you still have a short position of half a billion dollars compared to Tesla?”
To which Gates replied, “Sorry to say I did not rule it out. I would like to discuss philanthropy options.”
Musk shot back: “Sorry, I can not take your philanthropy on climate change seriously when you have a massive short position against Tesla, the company that does the most to tackle climate change.”
The New York Times has not yet reported on Gates’ Tesla deal or the text messages referenced in @wholemarsblog’s tweet.
A spokesman for Bill Gates was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Gates told New York Times opinion writer Kara Swisher last year: “It’s important to say that what Elon did with Tesla is one of the biggest contributions to climate change anyone has ever made. And you know that underestimating Elon is not one. good idea.”
But he went on to add that what Tesla did was “easy things, like passenger cars.” Gates stressed the need to make a greater impact on climate change by tackling other industries.
“We’re basically not doing enough on the hard stuff: steel, cement, meat,” he said at the time. “And unfortunately, the things people think about – electricity, passenger cars – are a third of the problem. So we have to work on those two thirds.”
“If all you are aware of are the short-term measurements, not the green premiums across the board, then you are missing out on what is the longest delivery time, which is the hard part.”
This is not the first time the two men have had a public disagreement.
When Gates revealed in 2020 that he was buying an all-electric Porsche Taycan, a Twitter user asked, “I wonder why Bill Gates decided to go with Taycan instead of a Tesla.”
Musk responded in a tweet: “My conversations with Gates have been overwhelming tbh [to be honest]. “
Musk has also previously speculated about the possibility of Gates shorting his company’s stock. Asked about those comments, and whether he was low Tesla, Gates told CNBC last year, “I’m not talking about my investments, but I think he should be very proud of what he has done.”
In a Bloomberg interview also in February 2021, Gates said he wished he had “been more on the long side” of Tesla when asked about Musk’s claims.
—CNBC’s Lora Kolodny, Todd Haselton, and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.