by Phoebe Liu, Forbes Staff
Musk and Zuckerberg continue to deal blows to each other, even if the cage fight is still metaphorical—for now.
The yearslong battle between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg—which might turn physical either via MMA-style cage match or, as Musk proposed on Sunday, “a literal dick measuring contest”—continued this week. The Meta CEO dealt a blow to Musk on Wednesday, when he launched a direct competitor to Musk’s Twitter, called Threads, in a surprise announcement accompanied by Zuckerberg’s first tweet in a decade: the Spiderman meme often used to poke fun at two very similar things.
Musk is fighting back. On July 5, the day Threads launched, an attorney for Twitter threatened legal action against Meta, accusing the company of misusing Twitter’s “trade secrets and other intellectual property.” Threads’ user experience differs from that of Twitter in several key ways, including eschewing hashtags and the chronological timeline, but still looks a lot like Twitter. Musk referred to Threads as a metaphorical “tapeworm.” On Sunday, he tweeted that “Zuck is a cuck.”
Still, Threads seems to be off to a solid start, reporting more than 30 million sign-ups within 24 hours, including a smattering of billionaires, pop stars and politicians. Analyst optimism around Threads’ launch also helped push Zuckerberg’s net worth, mostly held in Meta stock, up by $1.2 billion this week. He is the world’s 8th-richest person, according to Forbes’ real-time tracker. Musk, who reclaimed his spot as the world’s wealthiest person last week, had an even better week than Zuckerberg. Shares of his electric vehicle maker Tesla climbed 5%, translating to a $8.2 billion jump in Musk’s net worth. As of Friday’s market close, Musk is worth $246 billion, while Zuckerberg is worth $103 billion.
Despite their public brawling, both tech executives are riding high—really high—this year. Zuckerberg’s wealth has grown by the bigger percentage, while the richer Musk has added more wealth in sheer dollar terms. Since the beginning of 2023, Zuckerberg’s fortune has jumped 137%, from $43.8 billion to $103 billion. Over the same period, Musk’s net worth has climbed by 68%, from $146.5 billion to $246 billion. Their main shareholdings, Meta and Tesla, are the second- and third-best performing stocks in the S&P 500 in the first half of 2023, up 141% and 123% respectively.
Opinions differ on whether the physical fight will occur: Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, says they’ve been planning; Walter Isaacson, Musk’s biographer, says the cage match won’t happen. Still, even aside from Twitter vs. Threads and net worths, there’s much to compare:
- Zuckerberg first became a billionaire in 2008, just four years after founding Facebook. At 23, he was the youngest self-made billionaire at the time, debuting at No. 321 on The Forbes 400, worth with a net worth of $1.5 billion. Musk debuted on Forbes’ Billionaires List four years later, worth $2 billion and ranked No. 634.
- Zuckerberg appears on Forbes’ 2023 list of America’s most generous givers, while Musk doesn’t. Musk gifted Tesla shares last year, but it’s unclear whether they were actually disbursed to charity.
- Zuckerberg has a sprawling real estate portfolio worth an estimated $300 million—including some 1,500 acres of land and a former sugar plantation in Hawaii. Musk pledged to sell almost all of his real estate two years ago.
- Musk has led more companies (including Tesla, Twitter, SpaceX and Neuralink) causing some critics and investors to worry that he’s distracted. Zuckerberg has focused his attention on Facebook-turned-Meta, which he famously launched from his Harvard dorm nearly two decades ago.
- Musk owns more of the main company that made him rich. He has approximately 20% of Tesla shares, while Zuckerberg owns just under 15% of Meta.
- Musk immigrated to the U.S. from South Africa via Canada and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Zuckerberg, the son of a dentist, grew up in Westchester County in New York. He dropped out of Harvard during his sophomore year.
- Zuckerberg has three children with his wife, Priscilla Chan (All are named after Roman emperors). Musk has at least nine living children with three women, including triplets and two sets of twins; one is named X. Still he has expressed worries about population collapse.
Here’s how the net worths of Musk and Zuckerberg fared in the week spanning from market close on Friday, June 30, to the close on Friday, July 7:
NET WORTH: $246 BILLION 🟢 UP $8.2 BILLION
COUNTRY: UNITED STATES
SOURCE OF WEALTH: TESLA, SPACEX
Musk is once again the world’s richest person, after sitting at the No. 2 spot for six months. His net worth is up $8.2 billion this week, thanks to Tesla’s 5% stock jump. Over the weekend, the world’s top-selling electric vehicle brand announced a quarterly delivery record of nearly 500,000 sedans and crossovers, aided by price cuts—beating analysts’ expectations and enriching Musk, who owns around one-fifth of the company.
NET WORTH: $103 BILLION 🟢 UP $1.2 BILLION
COUNTRY: UNITED STATES
SOURCE OF WEALTH: META
Multiple analyst upgrades for Meta followed the launch of Twitter competitor Threads, leading to an uptick in Meta stock this week. After more than a year out of the world’s top ten richest, Zuckerberg reentered those ranks late last month. Meta’s new product and its cost-cutting narrative—including 21,000 layoffs since late 2022—in what Zuckerberg has called a “year of efficiency” has helped rocket its stock price up from a November 2022 low.