Tesla CEO Elon Musk Says He Made Less Than $0 in 2018

Elon Musk said he personally paid for most of his Tesla expenses.

Elon Musk
Tesla approved a huge compensation plan for Elon Musk last year. But none of it has materialized yet. Max Whittaker/Getty Images

You may think that a celebrity tech mogul like Elon Musk would pay himself handsomely even if his company struggles to turn a profit. But according to the Tesla (TSLA) CEO’s own calculation, last year he was paid less than $0 for running the electric carmaker.

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Musk revealed his real compensation during a Twitter conversation with a Tesla fan on Wednesday, writing that “I paid most of my Tesla-related expenses too. Tesla last year was actually net negative [compensation] for me.”

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Musk tweeted in response to a post by Tesla4Ever, a Tesla fan account, which challenged a Business Insider article last week headlined, “Elon Musk made more in 2018 than the next 65 highest-paid CEOs combined, according to a report.”

Citing a New York Times executive compensation study, the article claimed that Musk had made $2.3 billion in stock options in 2018, which made him the highest paid executive among 200 CEOs of large publicly traded companies.

Tesla4Ever argued that it was simply not true. In a post addressed to the Business Insider report’s author, Andy Kiersz, the Tesla fan account claimed that Musk wasn’t paid any performance-based compensation and only “made the state mandated minimum wage,” which he then donated.

According to Tesla’s proxy statement, in 2018, Musk was paid a base salary of $56,380. (If based on California’s minimum hourly wage, this number means Musk worked 90 hours per week in 2018.)

The $2.3 billion figure mentioned in the Business Insider article, though, was not a cash or equity payout, but a compensation plan Tesla’s board approved last year that has yet to materialize. The plan promises to compensate Musk with $2.3 billion worth of Tesla stock in 12 slices over a 10-year period on the condition that Tesla achieves a market capitalization of $650 billion, in addition to hitting 12 operational milestones.

Tesla is nowhere near that market cap goal right now. In fact, the electric carmaker’s stock has been a complete disaster in recent months, falling to a two-year low this week amid bleak outlooks for car delivery and a bitter U.S.-China trade spat. Tesla’s current market cap stands at only $33 billion.

“The fear, uncertainty and doubt propaganda campaign being pushed by those betting against Tesla has reached new heights,” Musk said in a separate tweet on Wednesday.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk Says He Made Less Than $0 in 2018