The longstanding rivalry between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos took an unexpected turn this week with a lawsuit filed Monday that alleges Amazon didn’t issue SpaceX a satellite contract due to the ongoing personal issues between the two men.
The suit was filed by Cleveland Bakers and Teamsters Pension Fund (CB&T) in the Delaware Court of Chancery against Bezos and other top executives at Amazon, including CEO Andy Jassy.
In the document, CB&T, an Amazon shareholder, said that executives there “consciously and intentionally breached their most basic fiduciary responsibilities” by not using SpaceX as a rocket launch provider in Amazon’s Project Kuiper initiative.
Project Kuiper is “an initiative to increase global broadband access through a constellation of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO)” that aims to bring broadband access to “unserved and undeserved” areas of the world—and also a direct rival to Musk’s Starlink, a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX.
A Blue Origin New Shepard rocket launches from Launch Site One in West Texas north of Van Horn (Getty Images)
The rocket launches purchased for Kuiper were provided by United Launch Alliance (ULA), Arianespace, and Blue Origin, which Bezos owns. SpaceX is currently the leading rocket provider in the world.
The suit alleges that had Amazon used SpaceX, the entire deal would have been much cheaper, therefore damaging shareholders in the process, and claims that Amazon’s leadership “excluded the most obvious and affordable launch provider, SpaceX, from its procurement process because of Bezos’ personal rivalry with Musk.”
“Bezos, it must be assumed, could not swallow his pride to seek his bitter rival’s help to launch Amazon’s satellites,” the documents reportedly read.
Amazon, however, is rejecting the lawsuit and its claims.
“The claims in this lawsuit are completely without merit, and we look forward to showing that through the legal process,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC.
The passage of SpaceX Starlink satellites is observed in the skies of Sanliurfa, Turkiye (Getty Images)
The lawsuit reportedly shows screenshots of interactions on the app formerly known as Twitter between Bezos and Musk, underscoring their rivalry and Bezos’ original disdain with Musk after SpaceX was awarded NASA’s coveted $2.9 billion human lunar landing contract in 2021 that Bezos’ Blue Origin was eyeing.
Bezos sued NASA upon losing the contract and lost to the court, saying at the time that the ruling was “not the decision we wanted” but wished “full success for NASA and SpaceX on the contract” nonetheless.