Tesla (TSLA)—formerly known as Tesla Motors—is one of the most innovative technology companies in the world. The company focuses on producing electric vehicles and also looks at design and energy.

Read on to learn more about the company, including its top three shareholders.

The Facts About Tesla

The company was founded in 2003 by Silicon Valley engineers who wanted to prove electric cars could have power and torque along with zero emissions. In 2008, Tesla launched its first car. The Roadster was able to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 4 seconds and had a range of 220 miles per charge of the car's lithium-ion battery.

Contrary to popular belief, Tesla was founded by Eric Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning—not Elon Musk.

Tesla has become the best selling plug-in car manufacturer. According to its website, the company produces all of its cars at its Fremont, Calif., factory. The company has sold more than 532,000 vehicles around the world as of Dec. 31, 2019. 

There are several different models available:

  • The Roadster launched in 2008
  • The Model S launched in 2012
  • The Model X released in 2015
  • The Model 3 released in 2017

The latest offering, the Model Y, was unveiled in March 2019, with the company taking reservations shortly afterward.

Tesla released its Q4 2018 earnings on Jan. 2, 2019. The electric automotive company reported a GAAP net income of $139 million, compared to a $675.4 million loss over the same period last year, but down from its Q3 2018 GAAP net profit of $312 million.

Key Takeaways

  • Tesla was founded in 2003 by two Silicon Valley engineers, Eric Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning.
  • The company had more than 532,000 vehicles on the road as of Dec. 31, 2018.
  • CEO Elon Musk is the top shareholder of the company with 38.6 million shares.
  • The second- and third-largest individual shareholders are Jeffrey B. Straubel and Deepak Ahuja, respectively.

Tesla Tweet Controversy

Tesla made news on Aug. 7, 2018, when a tweet from CEO Elon Musk suggested that he wanted to take the company private and secured funding to do so. What followed was confusion about Musk's plan and the trading of Tesla shares was halted. Musk revealed later he was actively evaluating the option but that no final decision was taken. Over the next few days, more contradictory reports emerged about the source of funds for such a buyout. Musk clarified a few days later that he had a number of talks with the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia to take Tesla private. The fund has previously invested in the company and bought nearly 5% of Tesla shares according to Musk.

On Sept. 27, 2018, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Musk, charging him with securities fraud for misleading investors about taking the company private. Musk settled with the SEC two days later and stepped down as chairman of Tesla's board. He remains the company's CEO.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Tesla and Space Exploration (SpaceX) Technologies. Musk was born in South Africa and attended the University of Pennsylvania before beginning his graduate studies at Stanford University. However, Musk dropped out to start a multitude of companies such as Zip2 and X.com—now known as Paypal—which he sold to Compaq and eBay (EBAY), respectively. Musk then founded SpaceX and co-founded Tesla and SolarCity, a renewable energy company.

Musk owns roughly 38.6 million shares of Tesla held indirectly through a trust according to a Feb. 14, 2019 SEC filing. This makes Musk the largest shareholder among both institutions and individuals. On March 21, 2018, Tesla shareholders approved a performance-based stock option award to purchase 20.3 million shares for Musk. On October of 2018, Musk announced he purchased an additional $10 million in shares and planned to purchase an additional $20 million of his company's stock during the next open trading window.

As of Feb. 23, 2019, Musk has an estimated net worth of $22.3 billion, according to Forbes.

Elon Musk is the 40th richest person in the world, according to Forbes' list of billionaires in 2019.

Jeffrey B. Straubel

Jeffrey Straubel serves as the chief technology officer (CTO) of Tesla. He holds a bachelor's degree in energy systems engineering and a master's degree in engineering from Stanford University. Straubel is a co-founder of Tesla and has managed the engineering and technical design of the electric vehicles, which was primarily focused on the motor, battery, software subsystems, and power electronics.

According to the Straubel's most recent SEC filing from November 2018, the Tesla Motors CTO holds 306,398 shares of the company, making him the second-largest individual shareholder.

Deepak Ahuja

Deepak Ahuja has been the chief financial officer (CFO) of Tesla since 2017. He first served as the company's CFO from 2008 until his retirement in 2015, but he returned to the company to replace Jason Wheeler. Ahuja previously spent 15 years at Ford where he served as controller for small cars product development program from 1993 to 2008.

According to Ahuja's most recent SEC filing from November 2018, the CFO holds 25,015 shares of Tesla directly and another 38,789 shares indirectly through a family trust.

Ahuja holds an M.B.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. degree in Materials Engineering from Northwestern University, and a bachelor's degree in Ceramic Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University, or BHU) Varanasi in India.