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Elon Musk and MrBeast have a complicated friendship — and it may be beginning to turn sour

MrBeast and Elon Musk
MrBeast and Elon Musk's friendship may be souring.Icon Sportswire, Alessandra Benedetti - Corbis/Getty Images
  • The world's richest man and YouTube's biggest star have a long-standing friendship.

  • Elon Musk and Jimmy Donaldson, AKA MrBeast, have quipped back and forth on social media for years.

  • But their relationship may be souring, as Donaldson does not shy away from criticizing Musk's ventures.

Elon Musk and YouTube's biggest star, MrBeast, have had a long-standing friendship based on back-and-forth quips on social media.

But their relationship may be beginning to sour, judging by Musk's notorious dislike for his critics.

MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, has more than 220 million subscribers on YouTube.

The 25-year-old is known for his philanthropy, social experiments, and various entrepreneurial ventures.

So it's no surprise he and the world's richest man hit it off.

However, in recent months, Donaldson has not shied away from questioning Musk's attempts to draw big creators to X, formerly Twitter, and criticizing some of the billionaire's more rash decisions.

The move may mean the two aren't buddies for much longer.

Their friendship began with a charity venture

mrbeast trees
Jimmy Donaldson, AKA MrBeast, and his #TeamTrees initiative.YouTube/MrBeast

In 2019, Donaldson was becoming a huge name on YouTube, and was dabbling in some ambitious philanthropical stunts.

One of them was the #TeamTrees challenge, where he aimed to plant 20 million trees in collaboration with the Arbor Day Foundation — the idea was that with every $1 donated, one tree would be planted.

The idea came from a fan's suggestion, but it ended up raising millions of dollars and catching the attention of some of the world's biggest influencers, including PewDiePie and Jeffree Star, as well as YouTube's CEO Susan Wojcicki.

This was when Donaldson appeared on Musk's radar too (other than a short conversation about Musk hosting PewDiePie's "Meme Review" a few months prior).

"Sounds cool," Musk responded to Donaldson's tweet about the project on October 28, 2019. "Where are the trees being planted and what kind of trees?"

When the initiative was explained, Musk responded again, saying: "Ok, sounds legit, will donate 1m trees."

"I'm so happy right now," Donaldson replied, giving Musk the nickname "Treelon."

"Someone help me I can't stop smiling."

They exchanged messages back-and-forth after that

Elon Musk biography
The cover of "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future" by Ashlee Vance.Amazon

Over the following months and years, Donaldson and Musk exchanged messages on X (Twitter back then). Donaldson said several times that he admired Musk.

In one tweet, he said he had been reading "Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future" by Ashlee Vance.

"I'm about to finish this book and I want you to know that I respect the hell out of you," he wrote on February 11, 2020. "Ever since I started learning about your work ethic and passion I've been more motivated than ever to make a difference. I look up to you."

Donaldson also tweeted messages of support about Musk's developments at Tesla, and said he would be tuning in when Musk hosted "Saturday Night Live" on May 8, 2021.

On February 27, 2022, Musk tweeted asking why the "traditional" media was "such a relentless hatestream."

"Bro I could literally feed a million people and they wouldn't care in the slightest," Donaldson replied. "But the second I slip up and do something wrong they'll pounce all over it lmao."

Donaldson then asked to buy Twitter

MrBeast
Jimmy Donalson, AKA MrBeast.Steve Granitz/Getty Images

Many of Donaldson's earlier messages to Musk went unanswered, but one caught the billionaire's attention on May 9, 2022.

It was when Musk was in the middle of trying to buy Twitter. He had also been accused by Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia's space agency, of being "involved in supplying the fascist forces in Ukraine with military communication equipment".

"And for this, Elon, you will be held accountable like an adult — no matter how much you'll play the fool," Rogozin said.

Musk then cryptically tweeted out: "If I die under mysterious circumstances, it's been nice knowin ya."

Donaldson replied: "If that happens can I have Twitter."

Musk responded with a simple, "Ok."

"Jokes aside, be safe!" Donaldson said. "I wuv u."

Musk then started making bold claims about the future of X

YouTuber MrBeast; Twitter CEO Elon Musk
MrBeast and Elon Musk.Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for TikTok; Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images

Musk officially bought Twitter, which he later renamed to X, on October 27, 2022.

He started making bold claims about the future of the company almost immediately.

Donaldson responded to one of his tweets about the site's daily active users, saying he wondered what YouTube's equivalent was.

"Let's see what happens when Twitter offers good video with higher compensation for creators …" Musk responded, laying the groundwork for his plans to try and poach some of the biggest online creators from other platforms.

Donaldson said higher compensation than YouTube — where he has his main following — would be "hard." Some YouTubers were getting moer than $20 per 1,000 views, he said.

"I'd be shocked if you crack that code," he said.

Musk didn't respond.

Donaldson made it clear he didn't shy away from criticism

A screenshot of MrBeast
Jimmy Donaldson AKA MrBeast.Lex Fridman via YouTube

Musk made a lot of changes to Twitter in his first few weeks, and Donaldson wasn't afraid to call him out when he disagreed.

On December 18, 2022, Musk made a characteristically trollish poll on his account, asking users to vote on whether he should step down as CEO. "I will abide by the results of this poll," he said.

Donaldson replied a few hours later, saying: "If you're going to keep doing stuff like this, yes," with a vomiting emoji.

He shared a link to and a screenshot of a new policy Musk had put in place over that weekend, which prohibited users from linking to other sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or Mastodon.

"We recognize that many of our users are active on other social media platforms," the policy said. "However, we will no longer allow free promotion of certain social media platforms on Twitter."

Musk didn't respond publicly to Donaldson, but the policy was retracted.

Donaldson then asked again to control Twitter, tweeting on December 22, 2022: "Can I be the new Twitter CEO?"

"It's not out of the question," Musk replied.

Over a year in, Musk still cannot land MrBeast's content

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and X attends the AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park, on November 1, 2023 in Bletchley, England.
Elon Musk.Toby Melville - Pool/Getty Images

Musk and Donaldson continued to have friendly conversations in public over the next year.

But there was seemingly no progress in Musk's plans to entice Donaldson, or any other major YouTubers, to post their content exclusively on X.

Donaldson's latest brutal comment on the struggle may have hit a nerve.

"I uploaded, go watch or I'll drop kick you," he wrote on X on December 30, 2023.

A user then responded by asking him to "upload on this platform too." Musk chimed in, adding: "Yeah."

But Donaldson didn't seem thrilled with the idea.

"My videos cost millions to make and even if they got a billion views on X it wouldn't fund a fraction of it," he said.

"I'm down though to test stuff once monetization is really cranking!"

Since then, Musk and Donaldson haven't exchanged any public messages. But in January, he implied that finding competitive revenue streams for creators was a priority.

"Creator rewards will increase significantly this year," he said.

Musk and Donaldson did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

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