Whether you run a billion-dollar startup or head a Fortune 500 company, you’re bound to have an impressive rolodex full of powerful individuals. But what happens when a select few of these contacts turn into trusted confidantes?
We delve into four high-power friendships – some of which span decades – that you might not have heard of until now. From two “unicorn” company founders who played on the same high school basketball team to Serena Williams and Sheryl Sandberg’s touching friendship, here are eight high-profile leaders who don’t mind mixing the personal and the professional.
Tesla founder Elon Musk and Google co-founder Larry Page
Though we may never know the depths of Tesla founder Elon Musk and Google co-founder Larry Page’s friendship, we do know they’re good buddies. According to the book Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Musk has no problem crashing with Page when he’s visiting Silicon Valley.
“He’s kind of homeless, which I think is sort of funny,” Page said. “He’ll email and say, ‘I don’t know where to stay tonight. Can I come over?’ I haven’t given him a key or anything yet.”
In a 2014 TED Talk with Charlie Rose, Page even went as far as saying that he would rather give his money to Musk than donate it to charity. “He wants to go to Mars, to back up humanity,” Page said. “That’s a worthy goal, but it’s a company, and it’s philanthropical.”
Page and Musk don’t agree on everything, however. Here’s where their relationship gets a little complicated: Musk is reportedly terrified that his friend might destroy humanity thanks to Google’s aggressive push into building AI robots. “He could produce something evil by accident,” Musk has said.
WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey and AppNexus co-founder Brian O’Kelley
Miguel McKelvey, the co-founder of the coworking company WeWork, and Brian O’Kelley, chief executive of AppNexus, an advertising technology company, are two friends who each happened to found a billion-dollar company (WeWork ranks at No. 13 and AppNexus comes in at No. 74 on Fortune’s Unicorn List). Unlike other Silicon Valley high-profile duos, they didn’t connect at a startup incubator or a tech happy hour. Instead, they met at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon, where they played on the same basketball team. Though the two future founders went on to attend different universities – McKelvey graduated in 1992 and went to the University of Oregon while O’Kelley graduated in 1995 and headed to Princeton – through the years, the high school teammates continued playing recreational basketball together.
They remain close off the court. Today, WeWork and AppNexus’ headquarters are down the street from each other in New York City’s Flatiron District. Oh, and the basketball bromance doesn’t stop there. AppNexus’ CMO Pat McCarthy, who was also a South Eugene High basketball player, founded fantasy sports startup Fantuition before it was acquired by his buddy O’Kelley in 2012.
Tennis star Serena Williams and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
It all started with a tweet. After the multitalented Serena Williams who, along with being one of tennis’s biggest stars also created her own fashion label, finished reading Lean In, she tweeted that she wanted to have dinner with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg reached out, and the two met in December 2014. The power duo became even closer after Sandberg’s husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg, passed away in May 2015. Williams sent the Facebook executive texts, messages and voicemails, according to Sports Illustrated.
“For Serena Williams to say, ‘You have all my strength’? God, when you’re like where I was after Dave died, that feels like a lot of strength,” Sandberg told SI. “I would feel like she was carrying me.”
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Oracle founder Larry Ellison
To say the tech titans were close friends is an understatement: Oracle founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison and Apple’s late co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs enjoyed a 25-year-long friendship. In a 2009 Fortune story, Ellison shared a personal anecdote that illustrated just how much of a perfectionist Jobs could be.
“I remember when Steve was my neighbor in Woodside, Calif., and he had no furniture,” Ellison said. “It struck me that there wasn’t furniture good enough for Steve in the world. He’d rather have nothing if he couldn’t have perfection.”
When Jobs was healthy, he and Ellison took walks and hikes together. And when Jobs got sick, Ellison was by his side in his final days. “The walks started getting shorter,” Ellison said. “Until near the end, we’d kind of walk around the block – maybe four blocks, something like that. And you just watched him getting weaker. And this is the strongest guy I knew.”