Elon Musk could earn £125 a second in $55.8bn pay deal

Angela Jameson, JOnathan Prynn
Super-tycoon: Elon Musk with actress Amber Heard, his former girfriend: Media-Mode / Splash News

He put a car into orbit and now Tesla boss Elon Musk has been handed a pay deal for which the word stratospheric can only be regarded as a massive understatement.

Shareholders in the electric car manufacturer founded by the entrepreneur last night approved a “platinum handcuffs” deal that could see him make $55.8 billion (£39.4 billion) in stock and bonuses over the next decade.

The package is designed to lock into the company the South African-born tycoon who attracted worldwide headlines last month after his SpaceX firm blasted a Tesla Roadster into the heavens on top of a rocket.

Musk, 46, has hinted he might retire from the “day job” to pursue his interests in space exploration full-time.

The maximum payout will only be triggered if the company hits immensely demanding performance targets, including its market value spiralling more than ten-fold to $650 billion (£458 billion) by 2028.

Tesla must hit pass 12 milestones before Musk is given shares equivalent to one per cent of the company.

Musk, who already owns more than 20 per cent of Tesla, will become the world’s richest man if he makes all the targets. His holding in Tesla would be worth around $200 billion, placing him ahead of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, whose wealth is estimated at a mere $112 billion.

Even by the remarkable standards of America’s tech world, the potential payout represents a rate of earnings never before seen. If he collects the maximum after 10 years, he will have earned £7,500 a minute or £125 a second for his labour.

In contrast, Silicon Valley’s highest paid chief executive, Google boss Sundar Pichai, whose package was worth £141 million in 2016, earns £268 a minute or £4.47 a second for his job.

In a statement, the company said: “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.”

Musk will not receive any salary, bonuses or options during the 10-year “lock-in” and will only be compensated if shareholders “do extraordinarily well”, the company said. Tesla board member Antonio Gracias said: “We believe as a board and executive team that we can actually achieve these milestones.

“It’s very important to think about the specifics of Tesla and what we have already achieved.”

Around three quarters of Tesla shareholders approved the plan, despite the company struggling to hit production targets for its latest car.

However, two shareholder groups, Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services, recommended rejecting the proposals, with Glass saying the potential cost was “staggering”.

However, their fears may never be realised because hitting the targets would represent a huge change in fortunes for Tesla — in 15 years of operation it has yet to make a profit.