Tesla CEO Elon Musk is heading into what could very well be the fourth major payout from his unique 10-year performance award, which was approved by TSLA investors in 2018. If Tesla maintains its momentum, or better yet, if the company shows another profit for the third quarter, the Tesla CEO could end up putting another $3 billion in his pocket from his fourth payout alone.
As of Tuesday’s trading, TSLA stock saw a six-month market cap average of $250 billion, a milestone that happens to correspond to the fourth of 12 tranches in Musk’s payment plan. Each tranche provides Musk with the option to purchase 8.44 million Tesla shares for about $70 each. That’s about a sixth of TSLA’s current price.
If Elon Musk sells the shares he acquired from the three tranches that have vested so far and the potential fourth tranche, he could make a combined profit of $11.8 billion, or almost $3 billion per tranche. Interestingly, Musk only earned the first tranche of his performance award in May, which was worth $700 million then. The value of these shares has risen since amidst TSLA’s meteoric rise.
Elon Musk’s current 10-year performance award is one of the most high-risk, high-reward pay packages that have been granted to top US executives to date. Patterned after his previous 5-year performance award back in 2012 — which helped Tesla grow 17-fold — the current 10-year performance award requires several milestones before the CEO is compensated a single cent.
Under the terms of the current plan, Musk would only get rewards if he meets 12 milestones, comprised of $50 billion additions to Tesla’s market cap and a series of operational targets. If successful, Musk would end up being one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. But if Tesla fails to attain its goals, Musk would receive zero compensation.
Such a payment plan has unsurprisingly attracted a notable number of critics, with skeptics stating that Musk is getting paid too much for his work in Tesla. What is typically neglected in such criticisms is the fact that every Tesla employee also holds TSLA stock, which means that their net worth grows the more the company meets its milestones. With this in mind, one could argue that Musk’s performance award benefits TSLA shareholders and Tesla employees to a significant degree.
Tesla has been on a tear this 2020, with TSLA surging 400% this year on increased sales of the Model 3 and the initial ramp of the Model Y. The company has posted a fourth consecutive profitable quarter in Q2 2020 as well, and with Tesla delivering a record 139,300 vehicles in Q3, the electric car maker seems to be within striking distance of yet another profitable quarter. Needless to say, Tesla investors are now eagerly awaiting the company’s quarterly financial report, which will likely be released later this month.
Disclosure: I am long TSLA.