Elon Musk’s ownership in Tesla (TSLA) has declined in recent year as a result of him selling Tesla shares to pay hefty tax bills and fund his side hustles, including the $44 billion purchase of Twitter in 2022. But as Tesla has conquered the electric vehicle market and moves into its next chapter of developing artificial intelligence and robotic products, Musk wants to boost his stake in the company so that he has a bigger say in major decisions.
In a string of posts on X yesterday (Jan. 15), Musk said he would like to own a quarter of Tesla, which will be roughly twice what he has today. “I am uncomfortable growing Tesla to be a leader in A.I. and robotics without having ~25 percent voting control,” Musk wrote, adding that, “unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla.”
Musk has two companies outside of Tesla that are working on A.I. and robotics products: Neuralink, which is developing a robotic surgeon that could one day implant a chip in the human brain, and xAI, which is building a ChatGPT-like A.I. chatbot.
Musk currently owns 13 percent of Tesla, which makes up about half of his net worth, according to Bloomberg’s calculation. His ownership in stake in the increasingly valuable SpaceX accounts for a quarter of his wealth, and the rest is spread across X (formerly Twitter), The Boring Company and his other ventures.
Just a little more than two years ago, Musk owned more than 20 percent of Tesla. He had to sell a nearly $20 billion stake in late 2021 to cover a tax bill incurred from a set of expiring stock options.
The quickest way to boost Musk’s Tesla ownership is for the company’s board to approve a special compensation plan for the CEO similar to the one they signed off in 2018. But the 2018 package, which is estimated to be worth $56 billion, is still under review at a Delaware court as a Tesla shareholder sued the company for unfairly enriching its CEO.
“If I have 25 percent, it means I am influential, but can be overridden if twice as many shareholders vote against me vs for me,” Musk explained in another X post yesterday. “At 15 percent or lower, the for/against ratio to override me makes a takeover by dubious interests too easy.”
Musk, who is already the world’s richest person, said his demand is not so much about money as it is about voting power. One potential way to increase his voting power without owning more Tesla shares would be implementing a dual-class voting structure, where holders of a special class of shares have superior voting rights to others. But Musk said he’d been told a dual-class structure is impossible for Tesla now that it’s already a publicly traded company.
At 13 percent, Musk is still Tesla’s largest shareholder. The EV maker’s other major shareholders include institutions like Vanguard, State Street and BlackRock.
I should note that the Tesla board is great. The reason for no new “compensation plan” is that we are still waiting for a decision in my Delaware compensation case. The trial for that was held in 2022, but a verdict has yet to be made.
I put “compensation plan” in quotes,…
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 15, 2024