Elon Musk Faces Opposition from Major Tesla Investor Over $55 Billion Pay Package

In a dramatic turn of events, Tesla’s largest retail shareholder, Leo Koguan, has announced his decision to vote against CEO Elon Musk’s $55 billion pay package. This decision comes amid increasing concerns over Musk’s commitment to Tesla and the governance of the company.

Background of the Controversy

The controversy centers around a compensation package initially approved in 2018, which awarded Musk stock options valued at up to $55 billion if Tesla achieved specific market capitalization and operational milestones. This package was invalidated earlier this year by a Delaware judge who cited conflicts of interest and the lack of a fair process in its approval.

Investor Dissatisfaction

Koguan, who once described himself as an “Elon fanboy,” expressed his frustration, stating that Musk has neglected Tesla for his other ventures, including SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Twitter, which Musk acquired for $44 billion​​. Koguan’s decision is significant because he holds over 27 million Tesla shares, making him a critical player in the upcoming shareholder vote​​.

In an email to Forbes, Koguan emphasized that his vote is based on Musk’s apparent lack of dedication to Tesla, accusing him of using the company as a personal “ATM machine” to fund his other enterprises. This sentiment is echoed by several institutional investors who also argue that the pay package is excessive and fails to incentivize future performance​.

Governance and Corporate Ethics

The criticism extends to Tesla’s board of directors, particularly Musk’s brother, Kimbal Musk, and close friend, James Murdoch. The governance issues highlighted by investors suggest a lack of independence and effective oversight, which are crucial for maintaining shareholder trust and corporate integrity​.

In a letter addressed to Tesla’s shareholders, a group of major pension funds, including NYC Employees’ Retirement System and SOC Investment Group, outlined their opposition to the pay package. They argued that Musk’s divided attention and personal use of Tesla resources for his other ventures compromise the company’s performance and governance standards​​.

The Vote and Its Implications

The upcoming vote, scheduled for June 13, 2024, is seen as a pivotal moment for Tesla. While Koguan and other retail investors have made their positions clear, the outcome will largely depend on the institutional investors who collectively hold a significant portion of Tesla’s shares​​.

Tesla’s board has been actively campaigning to garner support for reinstating Musk’s pay package, emphasizing his past achievements and the strategic vision he brings to the company. They argue that losing Musk could be detrimental to Tesla’s future growth and innovation efforts​​.

The outcome of the shareholder vote will not only determine Musk’s compensation but also reflect broader investor sentiment about Tesla’s governance and strategic direction. As the debate intensifies, all eyes are on the shareholders who will ultimately decide the fate of one of the most controversial compensation packages in corporate history.

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