Congratulations, Elon Musk! You Won!

Mark Zuckerberg has given the Tesla CEO Elon Musk a chance to save face and put this cage fight absurdity behind us.

| Updated on: Aug 14 2023, 22:32 IST
Mark Zuckerberg vs Elon Musk
For everyone’s sake, Mark Zuckerberg should just let those drunk on Elon Musk adoration believe their hero has come out on top. (AP)
Mark Zuckerberg vs Elon Musk
For everyone’s sake, Mark Zuckerberg should just let those drunk on Elon Musk adoration believe their hero has come out on top. (AP)

The optimal time to have abandoned the idea of a cage match between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg would have been the very moment it was first suggested. The second best time is right now.

Thankfully, Zuckerberg, evidently the marginally more sensible man, has decided that life is too short to carry on this farce any longer. By turning down Musk's latest offer — a “practice” fight in Zuckerberg's back garden — he is giving Musk a chance to save face in front of his adoring fans. Here's hoping he takes it.

“I think we can all agree Elon isn't serious and it's time to move on,” wrote Zuckerberg on Threads on Sunday. “If Elon ever gets serious about a real date and official event, he knows how to reach me.”

The post by the Meta Platforms Inc.'s CEO came after a week or so in which Musk, in a manner not unlike his panicked attempts to avoid buying Twitter, tried to wriggle his way out of another fine mess he'd late-night-tweeted himself into.

First, he started announcing details about the bout that Zuckerberg said he hadn't been consulted on, such as plans to hold it at an “epic” location somewhere in Italy (but not Rome). Then Musk said he would be out for “months” due to an injury uncovered by an MRI.

Finally, according to texts posted by his biographer on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, Musk suggested the two CEOs should meet up on Monday, at Zuckerberg's house, for a brawl in his backyard. That obviously wasn't going to happen — since Zuckerberg is 39-year-old man, not a teenage boy. But Zuckerberg's turning down the offer gives Musk precisely what he has been craving: the chance to sell his supporters on the yarn Zuckerberg is the one backing out. What kind of self-respecting CEO wouldn't clear his diary in order to have a scrap to kick off the work week? What a total chicken! Elon is the winner!

For everyone's sake, Zuckerberg should just let those drunk on Musk adoration believe their hero has come out on top. Saner minds know better, and this childishness has gone on quite long enough. Long enough for them both to be losers, frankly — worth a combined $334 billion, as of Sunday, there are ample other things they should have been turning their attention to.

Meta is having a strong year, but Zuckerberg's reputation is still hanging on the success of his faltering Metaverse vision that has so far achieved little beyond becoming the butt of many jokes. Musk is in the midst of chaotic rebranding of Twitter into X, a site which he is, by any reasonable measure, running into the ground. Meanwhile, at Tesla, he must deal with the fallout from the abrupt departure of the carmaker's chief financial officer.

The two CEOs might also want to take a page out of Jeff Bezos's book. The Amazon founder, along with his partner Lauren Sanchez, used his weekend to set up a $100 million fund to support the communities affected by devastating wildfires in Maui.

Supporters of Musk will no doubt paint this embarrassing saga as some kind of galaxy-brained strategy to promote the floundering X. But they are kidding themselves. The only reason any of this has happened is that Musk, increasingly erratic, seems lonely and bored — and is desperate to keep himself at the center of attention. Zuckerberg, clearly relishing a reversal of his own public image, couldn't resist playing along. It's time both men grew up.

Dave Lee is Bloomberg Opinion's US technology columnist. Previously, he was a San Francisco-based correspondent at the Financial Times and BBC News.

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First Published Date: 14 Aug, 22:30 IST