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Tesla stakes Elon Musk’s salary on plan to become bigger than Amazon

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Musk’s compensation is tied to the exorbitant targets

Elon Musk Presents SpaceX Plans To Colonise Mars Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images

Tesla has announced a new compensation plan for Elon Musk: he’ll only get paid if he reaches certain exorbitant milestones, including a Tesla market valuation of $650 billion.

The company’s market valuation goals start at $100 billion and go up in $50 billion increments. (They climb to $150 billion, and so on until the $650 billion mark.) Tesla has a dozen market valuation goals and a dozen revenue and adjusted profit targets. The profit goals are designed to ensure that the company is “also executing well on both a top-line and bottom-line basis” as the company grows in valuation.

For hitting these goals, Musk would receive 1.69 million shares of the company (about 1 percent). If Tesla were valued at $650 billion, that would make it one of the five largest companies in the US, and bigger than Amazon, which currently has a market cap of $640 billion.

Tesla’s market cap is currently sitting at around $59.4 billion, which is slightly higher than Ford’s valuation of $47.7 billion but lower than General Motors’ $61.5 billion valuation. Musk is essentially saying that Tesla can be 10 times bigger than GM, though GM produces exponentially more cars and is profitable, while Tesla is neither. The New York Times notes that “experts would contend [the $650 billion valuation] is laughably impossible,” but said that even reaching several of the targets would still net Musk billions of dollars.

This new compensation plan is similar to one Musk had with Tesla in 2012, which also only paid him when he reached certain goals for the company’s market value and profits. Musk reached all of the targets except one operational milestone. Tesla said the 2012 performance award helped Tesla’s market cap rise 17-fold in the five years after it was put in place. According to the NYT, Musk doesn’t make a salary, but because of state law in California, Tesla pays him a little over the $37,000 minimum wage. Musk currently has a $13 billion stake in the company and has an estimated net worth of $20.1 billion.

Critics point out that this compensation plan is a bunch of hand-waving, though under the plan, Musk will only get paid if he reaches the milestones completely. “If all that happens over the next 10 years is that Tesla’s value grows by 80 or 90 percent, then my amount of compensation would be zero,” Musk told the NYT. Musk said he sees the potential for Tesla to become a trillion-dollar company within 10 years. “None of it is intended for dynastic wealth creation,” he said. “The reason that it’s important to me personally is that there’s some pretty big things that I want to do.” Those big things include colonizing Mars and building his own hyperloop between New York City and Washington, DC.

Under the terms of the Tesla compensation deal, Musk remains CEO. Musk can become chief product officer and executive chairman with a CEO reporting to him, but said that will only be a possibility if the company becomes so large he needs another person to oversee operations. The deal is still subject to shareholder approval.