2023 Men of the Year: Pissed Off Billionaires

L-R: Elon Musk, Marc Rowan, Bill Ackman, Cliff Asness (Getty Images)
December 26, 2023

X owner Elon Musk was the proverbial turd in the punchbowl at the New York Times DealBook summit in November. He told advertisers on the platform that he wouldn’t be extorted.

"If somebody is going to try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money, go f— yourself. Go. F—. Yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is." Then he gave a shout out to Disney CEO Bob Iger, who had pulled the company’s advertising from X days prior. "Hey, Bob, if you’re in the audience."

But that wasn’t the most profound thing Musk said on stage. No, the self-described philo-Semite, fresh off a visit to Israel, came with a message for the Jews. "Everyone here has seen the massive demonstrations for Hamas in every major city in the West. That should be jarring. Well, a number of those organizations receive funding from prominent people in Jewish communities," adding, "It’s unwise to fund organizations … that want your annihilation."

Looking at you, elite universities. A handful of billionaires, Jews and righteous gentiles alike, didn’t need to hear Musk’s message. They were already kicking ass and taking names—and university presidents.

Apollo CEO Marc Rowan, a Wharton graduate who donated $50 million to the University of Pennsylvania in 2018announced he would stop giving to the school and urged others to follow suit because the university didn’t "give a crap," he said, about Hamas’s savage Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Then came AQR Capital Management’s Clifford Asness, another Penn alumnus, who derided the "anti-Semitic Burning Man fest" held at the school in October and announced he was out.

Not to be outdone was Pershing Square Capital Management CEO Bill Ackman, who spent the last three months of the year mounting an activist-style assault on Harvard president Claudine Gay.

Not everybody is as pleased as we at the Washington Free Beacon are by the valor of these billionaires. The venture capitalist and Penn trustee Andy Rachleff argued that Rowan "is attempting to strong arm the university using the classic Apollo playbook and we are not going to succumb to these tactics even if it results in lower donations. The soul of the university is not for sale."

Former Penn president Liz Magill could not be reached for comment.

As for the soul of the university, this was but the first battle in a long war. We salute our generals, Marc Rowan, Cliff Asness, Bill Ackman, and Elon Musk—now also Washington Free Beacon Men of the Year.