CEO's pay plunges from $78 million to $70,000

April 28, 2014, 10:33 am Alan Ohnsman Bloomberg

Is this the biggest pay cut ever? Billionaire Elon Musk, the prolific head of Tesla, has seen his compensation dive 99.9 per cent.

Photo: Reuters

Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Motors and one of the wealthiest U.S. entrepreneurs, saw his take-home pay from the automaker plunge to less than US$70,000 last year, following a 2012 surge in his stock options.

Musk, Tesla’s 42-year-old co-founder, received total compensation of US$69,989 in 2013, down from US$78.2 million a year earlier, the Palo Alto, California-based company said in a filing. The value of stock and options in 2013 was US$36,709, down from the previous year’s US$78.1 million, which was a performance-oriented option that vests over a decade.

While Musk is awarded cash compensation of US$33,280, consistent with California minimum wage requirements, he accepts US$1 a year for his services, according to the filing.

Related: Elon Musk's $1.1 billion payday

Compensation for the leader of the youngest publicly held U.S. automaker compares with a US$23.2 million package for Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally. Ford is planning to announce as soon as next month that Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields will succeed Mulally as CEO this year, people familiar with the matter have said.

Musk’s large option award in 2012 was intended as compensation over a 10-year term, based on achieving specific goals, the company said in the filing. Those include the market capitalisation reaching US$43.2 billion within a decade; it’s US$25.8 billion now and was US$3.9 billion at the end of 2012.

To get the full value, Tesla also must expand its lineup with the Model X sport-utility vehicle, a lower-priced sedan, and raise its electric vehicle production to 300,000 units annually with Musk still at the company.

Entrepreneurial Wealth

As an entrepreneur, most of Musk’s wealth has come from starting and owning companies, rather than salary. He is Tesla’s biggest shareholder, with a 23 per cent stake, runs closely held Space Exploration Technologies and is chairman of SolarCity.

His holdings in the companies give him a net worth of about US$10 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Tesla this week began delivering Model S sedans, built at the company’s Fremont, California, plant to customers in China. Musk has said Tesla sales in the world’s biggest auto market may match those in the U.S. as early as next year.

“At some point in the next three or four years we’ll be establishing local manufacturing in China,” Musk said in Beijing this week. “China is very important to the future of Tesla. We’re going to make a big investment in China in terms of charging infrastructure.”

Related: The world's sexiest CEOs: Elon Musk

Quarterly Results

In the 12 months through February, Tesla notched a 619 per cent share price increase, the best of any international automaker in at least two decades.

Tesla is set to release first-quarter results May 7. The company may report earnings of 9 cents a share for the year’s first three months, excluding certain items, according to the average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. On a GAAP basis, it may have lost 19 cents per share, analysts estimate.

The shares fell 3.9 per cent to US$199.85 at the close in New York. The stock has risen 33 per cent this year.

Related: What Elon Musk really thinks of 'Silicon Valley'

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