In perhaps one of the boldest moves in corporate history, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, has announced his new compensation plan: Musk will only be paid if he reaches a series of milestones based on the company’s market value and operations. If the goals are not met, the multi-billionaire will be paid absolutely nothing.

According to the New York Times, Tesla has set a dozen market capitalisation targets, each US$50 billion (RM196 billion) more than the next. The first target starts at US$100 billion (RM391.75 billion), then US$150 billion (RM587.63 billion) and so on, with the final goal being US$650 billion (RM2.54 trillion) at the end of the 10-year plan.

The only other companies with a market cap above US$650 billion today are Apple with US$908 billion (RM3.55 trillion), Alphabet (Google’s parent company) with US$807 billion (RM3.16 trillion) and Microsoft at US$707 billion (RM2.77 trillion). To put those numbers in perspective, Tesla Motors’ market cap is worth only about US$59 billion (RM231 billion) today.


The Model 3 is Tesla’s first ever mass volume electric car

As for Musk, he will be paid out in 12 tranches – again, only if the targets are met. The first payout (1% of the company’s shares, worth about US$600 million [RM2.35 billion] in today’s share price) will only be issued if Tesla’s market value hits US$100 billion. Under the plan, Musk’s pay is tied strictly to stock performance and profit. He will receive no salary or bonus. There are also milestones tied to revenue and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, Tesla said in a statement.

Musk will collect an additional 1% stock grants for every additional US$50 billion increase in market value. To hit the final target, Tesla will also have to hit sales and profits targets, including an annual revenue of US$175 billion (RM685 billion), which is more than General Motors’ sales.

The publication also said experts find it “laughably impossible” for Tesla to be valued at US$650 billion (that would make Tesla one of the five largest companies in the US, based on current valuations). However, if Musk somehow succeeds, his payout could be worth a staggering US$55 billion (RM215 billion), and his stake in the company would be worth US$184 billion (RM720 billion), making him the world’s richest man.

Musk, who is already the world’s 44th richest person with a US$21.5 billion (RM84.23 billion) fortune (according to Bloomberg’s billionaires index), is Tesla’s biggest shareholder with a 21.9% stake. If he keeps all his current shares and achieves the maximum bonus target, he could end the decade with 28.3% of Tesla’s shares (if the company does not release any more).

However, the announcement was met with a number of criticisms, with some calling it a publicity stunt and to create the illusion of success while consistently missing production estimates. Tesla continues to lose money – at one point last year, it was losing almost a half a million dollars (RM1.96 million) an hour, according to Bloomberg.

The New York Times however, said Musk’s compensation plan is no illusion. The CEO only gets paid only if the company succeeds over the long term, and it’s impossible for him to manipulate the system by trying to prop up the stock price for a temporary period. Under the terms of the arrangement, even once his shares vest, he has to hold them an additional five years before he is allowed to sell them.

Tesla’s shareholders will vote on the proposals in March. Musk and his brother Kimbal, who is Tesla’s third-biggest shareholder, will recuse themselves from the vote.