Tesla (TSLA) Chief Executive Elon Musk could be the recipient of a $2.6 billion award, and he would have two of the company’s largest shareholders to thank.
Baillie Gifford & Co. and T. Rowe Price, which together hold a 14% stake in Tesla, told Bloomberg News they plan to vote in favor of a $2.6 billion compensation package for Musk proposed by the company's board. While the compensation package has raised the ire of some, the investment management firms think it's a show of confidence in Musk and ensures he stays around.
The compensation package, according to Bloomberg, is made up of 20.3 million stock options that vest in 12 increments if market value and other targets are met. Each increment represents around 1% of Tesla outstanding shares. In order for the stock options to be fully vested, the market value of Tesla would have to hit $650 billion. Musk will not earn a salary or bonus over the next decade, but if he takes the company to those great heights, he can expect an unprecedented windfall.(See more: Why Tesla's Stock Can Soar to New Highs.)
“We think what Tesla has achieved so far is pretty remarkable, but there’s more they can do in not just automotive, but the energy markets,” Tom Slater, a Baillie Gifford partner and fund manager told Bloomberg in an interview. “Elon Musk -- his drive and his vision -- has been a really important part of getting us to this point. Tesla still needs that drive and that vision to push the business.” Baillie Gifford, which Bloomberg said is one of the most active technology investors around the globe, has around 7.6% of Tesla shares while T. Row Price owns around 6.4%. The latter told Bloomberg it thinks the plan is aligned with the long-term interests of shareholders and that while the ownership structure of the company presents a “unique challenge” the compensation committee of the board handles it in the “right way.”
Glass Lewis & Co., the proxy advisory firm, said the proposed package is too expensive and would dilute other investors. Shareholders in the company will meet on March 21 to vote on the matter. Musk owns about 20% of the car company and will not vote on his compensation.
When it comes to Tesla, it is Musk and the attention he gets that has helped propel the company to where it is today. With a market cap of $55 billion, it is valued higher than General Motors (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F). And even as the company has had difficulty in meeting production schedules Musk has been able to drive huge demand and excitement for his electric cars. He is so important to the business that his departure is even listed as a risk factor in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, noted Bloomberg. And while Musk has other ventures in addition to Tesla such as his rocket company Space Exploration Technologies, the executive has no plans to leave. During the company's most recent earnings conference call, Bloomberg quoted him as saying “I expect to remain CEO for the foreseeable future. There are no plans to make a change at this time.” (See more: Tesla Will Merge with SpaceX: Nomura.)
Fidelity Investments, Tencent Holdings and Vanguard, three big Tesla investors declined to comment on Musk’s compensation while Baron Capital, which is Tesla’s 12th largest shareholders, said it will likely vote in favor of the payout, reported Bloomberg. “Think about Elon Musk and what he’s had to overcome to achieve what he has achieved,” Ron Baron, chair of Baron Capital told Bloomberg. “The OEMs are against him, the dealers are against him, the unions are against him. Everyone is aligned against him. The only reason why Tesla is successful is because of this guy.”