Elon Musk Calls For Amazon Breakup in Latest Spat With Jeff Bezos
By Tim Higgins
Elon Musk on Thursday took aim at Amazon.com Inc. and its
founder Jeff Bezos, calling for a breakup of the online retail
giant after it had rejected a book questioning the risk of the
coronavirus pandemic, a topic the Tesla Inc. chief executive has
expressed strong views on.
"Time to break up Amazon. Monopolies are wrong!" Mr. Musk said
on Twitter in response to a tweet by Alex Berenson, an author who
said that Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon's outlet for
self-published e-books, had rejected his submission for a
Covid-19-related book. Mr. Musk initially responded: "This is
The book was removed in error and was being reinstated, an
Amazon spokeswoman said. She didn't address Mr. Musk's claim that
the company was a monopoly that should be broken up
Soon after Mr. Musk's message, the author tweeted that Amazon
had "backed down" and shared a screenshot of a message he had
received from Kindle that the book had been published and would be
available on the website "in a few hours."
The book that sparked Mr. Musk's criticisms of Mr. Bezos on
Thursday is called "Unreported Truths about Covid-19 and Lockdowns:
Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates."
In an excerpt of the book posted online, Mr. Berenson writes
that the virus is more deadly than the seasonal flu in most years,
though the fatality rate is far lower than last century's Spanish
He and Mr. Musk have engaged on Twitter in recent weeks as the
Tesla CEO has repeatedly questioned the risk of Covid-19 and argued
the threat of economic shutdown is greater, making him one of the
highest profile businessmen to question the government's response
to the crisis.
Mr. Musk and Mr. Bezos have a history of taking jabs at each
other, rooted in a space race that is playing out between the two
billionaires, a corporate version of the Cold War-era rivalry
between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union to dominate space. Mr.
Musk, who also runs Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or
SpaceX, has been critical of Mr. Bezos' own passion project, a
rocket company separate from Amazon called Blue Origin.
SpaceX last week successfully sent U.S. astronauts into space,
in the first-ever private spacecraft to attain orbit with people on
board. The mission was the culmination of years of work as part of
the entrepreneur's broader dream of colonizing Mars.
Last year, Mr. Bezos took a not-so subtle swipe at Mr. Musk's
long-held ambition of going to Mars, which Mr. Musk has said humans
should do as a backup for life on Earth. "My friends who want to
move to Mars?" Mr. Bezos said during a talk at the Wings Club,
without naming Mr. Musk. "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."
Amazon has come under political pressure for some of its
business practices from politicians in both parties. Former
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren of
Massachusetts and Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders each called for
Amazon to be broken up due its size and dominance of e-commerce.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) in April urged the Justice Department to
" open a criminal antitrust investigation of Amazon" after a Wall
Street Journal report detailed the company's use of data on
third-party sellers on its platform to develop its products.
President Trump also has been a frequent critic of Amazon and
Mr. Bezos, related, in part, to the CEO's ownership of the
Washington Post. The president last year also questioned some of
Amazon's actions in pursuit of a massive Pentagon cloud-computing
contract, since awarded to Microsoft Corp. Amazon has challenged
the award, in part claiming Mr. Trump had pressured the Defense
Dept not to give it the contract potentially worth $10 billion.
Mr. Musk last month won backing from Mr. Trump as he pressured
local authorities in California to allow electric-car maker Tesla
to resume production at his lone U.S. car plant after manufacturing
was halted in March as the Bay Area tried to combat the spread of
the coronavirus. Mr. Musk filed a lawsuit in an attempt to restart
production before doing so in apparent violation of the local
The rivalry between Mr. Musk and Mr. Bezos took a new twist last
month with Amazon exploring the possible acquisition of a
driverless-car technology startup called Zoox Inc. Amazon has
investments in electric-car startup Rivian Automotive LLC and
self-driving car startup Aurora Innovation Inc., which was
co-founded by a former Tesla executive who helped develop Mr.
Write to Tim Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 04, 2020 17:29 ET (21:29 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.