Tesla won't pay Elon Musk unless ...

Elon Musk has a huge new incentive to make Tesla a bigger player in the car industry.Tesla said Tuesday that M...

Posted: Jan 23, 2018 3:39 PM
Updated: Jan 23, 2018 3:39 PM

Elon Musk has a huge new incentive to make Tesla a bigger player in the car industry.

Tesla said Tuesday that Musk won't get paid unless the company meets ambitious financial targets over the next decade.

The goal is for the electric car company to be worth $650 billion. Its current market value is just over $60 billion.

To put in perspective just how lofty a goal that is, consider that Apple, Google owner Alphabet and Microsoft are the only three American companies that have a market value over more than $650 billion.

Amazon, led by Jeff Bezos -- the world's wealthiest person -- is just a hair below that, with a market cap of about $649 billion.

If Tesla meets all its goals, which also include revenue and adjusted profit targets, Musk will receive stock worth $55.8 billion.

He'll get a chunk of stock every time Tesla hits another milestone for market value -- first at $100 billion, then every $50 billion more after that.

Until then, Musk will do without a salary, bonus or other annual stock awards from Tesla.

But he hardly needs a paycheck. Because of his ownership stake in Tesla, his investment in SpaceX and the money he made when PayPal, a company he backed, was sold to eBay, Musk is already worth more than $22 billion, according to Forbes and Bloomberg.

So can Tesla really grow to $650 billion and make Musk even richer?

Related: Tesla stock may be the new Big Short

Bulls argue that the mass-market Model 3 car will vault the company into the upper echelon of major car companies, alongside GM, Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen.

And Tesla stock has skyrocketed more than 920% in the past five years, including a 15% gain this year.

It's probably unreasonable to expect a repeat of that growth between now and 2023. But for the sake of argument, if Tesla's stock surged 920% more in the next five years, its market value would be just under $620 billion.

Tesla skeptics have pointed out that Musk has tended to be notoriously bad at meeting deadlines, which could give larger auto companies an advantage. After all, GM's Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan's Leaf are "cheaper" electric car options.

Some analysts also worry that Tesla is spreading itself too thin. It owns SolarCity, a solar panel company co-founded by two of Musk's cousins that is developing the Powerwall battery for the home.

So Tesla is trying to disrupt the auto market and the electric grid at the same time. All while he juggles SpaceX, The Boring Company and the artificial intelligence research firm OpenAI.

Related: Should Elon Musk merge Tesla and SpaceX?

Tesla seems to recognize the risk that Musk will be distracted. As part of the pay plan, Tesla said he must stay on as either CEO or executive chairman and chief product officer. That opens up the possibility that Tesla could one day hire a new CEO.

"This ensures that Elon will continue to lead Tesla's management over the long-term while also providing the flexibility to bring in another CEO who would report to Elon at some point in the future," Tesla said in a statement.

But Tesla added that "there is no current intention for this to happen."

Tesla has been a Wall Street darling, and there's a certain cult of personality among investors about Musk. So it may be a mistake to bet against him.

But even Musk has said several times in the past few years that he thought Tesla stock was overvalued based on current sales and the lack of consistent profits.

Then again, he's also claimed Tesla could be worth $700 billion by 2025.

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