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No salary for Elon Musk but a $70bn payout if Tesla reaches $650bn valuation

Alan Tovey
Elon Musk could get one of the biggest windfalls ever received by a chief executive if he meets targets - REUTERS

Tesla founder Elon Musk has been set what has to be one of the toughest bonus plans ever - increasing the $59bn electric car maker's market value to $650bn (£466bn) in a decade.

However, if he succeeds he could get one of the biggest windfalls ever received by a chief executive - almost $70bn, though this assumes the company does not issue more shares or raise equity.

At today's prices, the award is worth about $7.2bn, on top of the almost 20pc stake in the business  must already holds.

California-based Tesla revealed the scheme in a regulatory filing that also notes that the billionaire will not receive any guaranteed pay of any kind: no salary, no cash payouts or shares that vest as time rolls on.

Tesla said: “Elon's only compensation will be a 100pc at-risk performance award, which ensures that he will be compensated only if Tesla and all of its shareholders do extraordinarily well. Because all Tesla employees are provided equity, this also means that Elon's compensation is tied to the success of everyone at Tesla.”

History of Tesla

Hitting the $650bn target would make Tesla one of the world’s most valuable companies. Currently the biggest company by market capitalisation is technology giant Apple, valued at $909bn, followed by Google's parent Alphabet, at $807bn. 

To trigger payouts equal to 1pc of Tesla's outstanding shares, it will have to hit demanding milestones on not only the company’s value, but also revenue and earnings, ultimately generating sales of $175bn and earnings of $14bn. 

For each of the total of 12 milestones achieved, Mr Musk will see stock options vest equal to 1pc of Tesla’s outstanding shares - about 1.7m shares at the moment. At the current share price of $351, each milestone is worth almost $600m. 

If Mr Musk hits all the targets, he is in line for more than $7bn, calculated against Tesla’s current share price. 

In quotes | Elon Musk

Should the shares continue their heady rise - they have climbed by a third in recent years - the payout will be much greater.

The deal ties Mr Musk to Tesla. For the awards to vest, he must remain chief executive or executive chairman and chief product officer.

Professor David Bailey, an automotive industry expert at Aston university, called the plan an "all or nothing " move for Mr Musk.

He added: "It’s another big publicity coup, and will be ridiculed by some. But shareholders will like the plan and so will workers.

"Who knows whether it is doable or not? We are about to see a massive mobility revolution which Tesla is leading. Whether it survives long term is another matter.

"Mr Musk has, though, shown he’s fully committed to the Tesla after speculation he might go with the arrival of the Model 3 - he's in it for the long term."

The new scheme is modelled on an earlier arrangement, which required Tesla’s market value to rise in $4bn increments, with testing targets set against the Model X SUV and the Model 3, which the company is trudging to build in sufficient quantities.

Tesla said these targets were seen as “testing” at the time. But nine out of 10 were hit.

A special shareholder meeting will now be held in February to give Tesla investors a chance to vote on approving it.