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业绩太好,马斯克的“十年薪酬计划”提前七年达成

业绩太好,马斯克的“十年薪酬计划”提前七年达成

Shawn Tully 2021年03月23日
今年第一季度,他的奖金就超过了100亿美元。

2018年,特斯拉公司的董事会为创始人及首席执行官埃隆·马斯克制定了十年薪酬计划。这份迄今为止最成功的长期薪酬计划采取了一种极具创新性的结构,把马斯克的奖金收入和特斯拉市场价值的提升挂钩,并且取得了非常出色的效果。

这份薪酬计划实施仅三年,马斯克就已经带领这家电动汽车先锋企业,将市值翻了12倍。截至3月9日收盘时,特斯拉的市值已经达到了6470亿美元。

马斯克用比董事会预期短好几年的时间,完成了许多阶段性目标,带领特斯拉冲击一个又一个市值目标,并获得了相应奖励。

本文作者预计,马斯克将成为资本市场历史上,短期获得股票期权奖励最多的赢家:自2020年5月至今,他累积已经获得了317亿美元,其中仅2021年第一季度奖金就超过了100亿美元。

这几百亿美元奖金中的每一分每一厘都是马斯克应得的。虽然奖金数额惊人,但创造这些收入的正是他本人。

事实上,这只是他创造的巨额价值中的一小部分,特斯拉的股东并没有因为稀释股权而遭受多少损失——这也正是一份优秀的薪酬计划应当发挥的作用。

事实证明,“马斯克模式”为过去持有特斯拉股票的投资者和基金带来了其他企业望尘莫及的巨大成功。

然而,现如今购买特斯拉股票的投资者面临的前景并不乐观。董事会原本制定的是一份十年计划,而马斯克太过迅速地取得了成功,以至于这份计划出炉仅三年就要过时了。

班尼特·斯图尔特表示:“这份计划成为了其自身成功的牺牲品。计划本身的出发点很好,它有点类似杠杆股票期权,马斯克只有提高特斯拉的市场价值才可以得到奖励。但现在,他已经完成了所有市值指标,之前没有人能够想到这点。现在计划中就只剩下销售目标,和息税折旧摊销前利润目标了,首席执行官可以在不提高企业市值的情况下实现这些目标。”

斯图尔特是咨询公司Stern Stewart的联合创始人,他发明了“经济附加值”(EVA)工具,帮助企业从投入的每一美元资金中获取最大利润。

首先,我们来看看特斯拉“2018年首席执行官绩效激励”的内容。

这份计划分12笔向马斯克等额发放股票期权,每一笔发放845万股股票期权。2017年下旬计划最初拟定时,每笔股票期权占特斯拉总股本的1.0%;如今在发放给员工的期权和新股发行的稀释下,每笔股票期权占特斯拉总股本的比例降低到了0.88%。

马斯克的行权价为70美元,也就是计划开始时特斯拉的股价。而3月12日,特斯拉股价收报693.73美元,减去70美元的购买价格后能够计算出,每笔奖金的金额达到了令人震惊的52.71亿美元。

这12笔期权对应的是12个递进的特斯拉市值目标。第一个市值目标是1000亿美元,随后每个目标按500亿美元逐级递增。也就是说,马斯克要想赢得最后第12笔期权奖励,特斯拉的估值必须在一段时间内达到6500亿美元。

只有特斯拉的市值(以平均价格计算)在至少六个月内保持在规定的目标水平或以上,并且在这六个月前的30天内达到目标水平,马斯克才有资格获得一笔期权奖励。

仅仅达到市值目标,马斯克还不能直接拿到期权奖励。为此,他还要实现一个销售收入目标或息税折旧摊销前利润目标。

我们可以把这个计划想象成装了12个保险箱的金库,每个保险箱都需要两把钥匙才能打开。每个保险箱对应的第一把钥匙是市值目标。如果马斯克同时实现了一个新的经营目标,特斯拉就会把第二把钥匙也交给他,而这个经营目标既能够是销售收入目标,也可以是息税折旧摊销前利润目标。马斯克只有集齐两把钥匙,才能够打开下一个宝箱。

此外,这副“奖金手铐”还有一项重要条件:马斯克必须继续担任首席执行官,或同时担任执行总裁和首席产品官,才可以获得这些期权奖励。

销售收入和息税折旧摊销前利润分别设有八个难度递进的目标。这16个目标(或者说“钥匙”)打开金库中的12个保险箱绰绰有余。这给了马斯克一些回旋的余地。

特斯拉的市值达到最终目标后(事实上他几乎已经完成了这一壮举),他只要再实现16个经营目标中的12个,就能够打开所有保险箱,赢得所有期权奖励。每把钥匙仅可以使用一次,而且很难获得,因为目标数额增长很快。

销售收入方面,第一个目标是200亿美元,最后第八个目标是1750亿美元。息税折旧摊销前利润方面,第一个目标是15亿美元,最后第八个目标是140亿美元。

根据薪酬计划的设置,即使马斯克达成了市值目标,他也必须不断实现逐级递增的销售收入或息税折旧摊销前利润目标,才能够拿到第二把钥匙。

这份计划听起来似乎很不错,马斯克既要为股东带来丰厚的回报,又要确保特斯拉的基础业务强劲增长。问题是,马斯克已经或者说即将完成所有市值目标,而且比任何人所可以想象的都要早得多。

现在,他只要再实现任意一个此前未达成的销售收入或息税折旧摊销前利润目标,就能够解锁下一笔期权奖励。他不需要同时实现销售收入和利润目标。

我们将会看到,马斯克只要提高销售收入,就可以拿到余下大部分期权奖励。

2018年1月,特斯拉董事会推出这一计划时,这家电动汽车制造商的市值刚过500亿美元,也就是第一笔期权奖励对应市值目标的一半左右。令人惊讶的是,直到去年4月特斯拉股票才开始大幅上涨,2020年春季期间特斯拉市值持续六个月远超1000亿美元,马斯克这才“赚到了钱”。

特斯拉在去年5月的委托书和2月的10-k文件中披露,马斯克在去年6月这一季度先后实现了1000亿美元的市值目标,和12个月销售收入超过200亿美元的目标,赢得了第一笔期权奖励。

截至去年9月底,特斯拉股价在六个月间,由每股150美元上涨至每股约400美元,期间特斯拉平均市值超过2000亿美元。也就是说,马斯克实现了第二和第三个市值目标。

去年第三季度,特斯拉的年息税折旧摊销前利润达到51亿美元,超过了计划中第一个(15亿美元)和第二个息税折旧摊销前利润目标(30亿美元)。马斯克就此获得了将第二笔和第三笔期权奖励收入囊中的权利。

特斯拉官方表示,马斯克实现了市值目标,并且先后达成了15亿和30亿美元的息税折旧摊销前利润目标,赢得了第二笔和第三笔期权奖励。

截至去年12月这一季度,特斯拉市值攀升至第四个目标水平,超过2500亿美元大关。与此同时,马斯克实现了45亿美元的息税折旧摊销前利润目标。至此,马斯克拿到了打开第四个保险箱的两把钥匙。

截至今年3月初,势头强劲的特斯拉过去六个月间平均市值超过5500亿美元(1月22日,特斯拉市值达到了8370亿美元的高点),足够马斯克拿到第五笔至第十笔期权奖励的第一把保险箱钥匙。马斯克很可能在本季度实现两项经营目标,斩获第五笔和第六笔期权奖励。

四个季度息税折旧摊销前利润达到下一个目标的60亿美元并非难事,因为6月到12月期间特斯拉的息税折旧摊销前利润已经达到了49亿美元。接下来350亿美元的销售收入目标也是一个能够轻松实现的目标。

在这两项达标的经营业绩和巨额的市值加持下,马斯克应该可以在今年3月这一季度获得第五笔和第六笔期权奖励。

去年6月到12月,马斯克总共获得了四笔845万股股票期权。今年3月底前,他还将获得另外两笔股票期权。这些股票期权总计5070万股,如果按3月12日收盘价693.73美元计算,他将持有价值352亿美元的股票期权。

2020年5月底提交的最新委托书显示,马斯克已经行使了一小部分期权,换取了3050万美元特斯拉股票。目前他仍然持有所有这些股票。

根据2018年这份薪酬计划,他行使期权后不能直接拿到行权价和市场价格之间的现金差额。他必须先购买特斯拉股票,并持有这些股票至少五年,随后才可以出售股票。

目前马斯克获得的期权奖励价值为352亿美元,减去购买股票必须支付的每股70美元行权价,即35.5亿美元。因此,如果特斯拉的股价保持在目前的水平,马斯克自去年6月以来获得的六笔期权奖励,将使他的净资产在3月底达到惊人的316.5亿美元。

截至2021年3月17日,特斯拉过去六个月的平均市值超过6000亿美元。如果特斯拉目前市值维持在6610亿美元,那么薪酬计划中第11个市值目标很快就能够达成,马斯克将有资格获得剩下六笔期权奖励中的五笔。

如果特斯拉目前市值维持在6660亿美元,那么马斯克将有望获取第12笔期权奖励。这份原本超长期的薪酬激励计划,正在以令人难以置信的速度为马斯克及其股东带来回报。

息税折旧摊销前利润和销售收入

但是,马斯克已经敲响了特斯拉市值的警钟。

目前进一步提高特斯拉市值无法再为他带来更多期权奖励。未来马斯克再带领特斯拉加速前进时,原定的目标将会被他甩在身后。

诚然,马斯克希望看到自己的股票进一步升值,因为他有权用每股70美元的价格购买5000多万股票。但是马斯克能否拿到这笔巨额奖金(按目前的股价计算还有300亿美元),如今完全取决于他能否实现息税折旧摊销前利润,和销售收入目标。

斯图尔特指出,原本这份薪酬计划设计非常合理,因为马斯克只有大幅提高特斯拉的价值才可以赢得每一笔期权奖励。

“如果目标只有息税折旧摊销前利润和销售收入,那就糟糕了。”斯图尔特说,“但原本的薪酬计划要求马斯克不断提高股东回报,并将其与销售收入、息税折旧摊销前利润结合在了一起。这种设计很棒,因为它能够确保马斯克必须建立一家有实业支撑的企业,而不仅仅只是在股价出现泡沫时获得报酬。”

斯图尔特说:“我无法批判这一整个薪酬计划,看看它取得的结果吧!但就未来发展而言,这份计划已经不是最佳选择了。马斯克用三年时间,带领特斯拉突破了原定要用十年实现的市值目标,现在这份计划就变成只有销售收入和息税折旧摊销前利润目标了。”

简而言之,未来几年特斯拉董事会需要找到一种更好的方式,激励马斯克带领企业继续前进。

所以眼下,马斯克已经遥遥领先于原定计划。即便特斯拉的市值停滞不前或出现下滑,马斯克只要提高销售收入和息税折旧摊销前利润,就可以获得巨额奖金。

鉴于目前他已经实现,或者说很快就将实现的销售收入目标仅有两个,接下来他甚至无需实现任何一项要求盈利能力不断提高的息税折旧摊销前利润目标,只要确保特斯拉的收入强劲增长,就能够拿到余下的全部六笔期权奖励。

白手起家建立特斯拉时,马斯克要投入大量资金,生产革命性的产品。而现在,他需要集中精力提高特斯拉的盈利能力。审慎对待新的投资支出,对提高企业盈利能力至关重要。马斯克只有确保特斯拉投入汽车和电池制造的每一美元投资都可以获得高额回报,才能够继续为股东带来收益。为此,特斯拉必须防止在营销上投入过多资金。

目前原定的薪酬计划已经过时,因为它只会让马斯克不惜一切代价刺激收入。投资制造利润率较低的车型,或者降价销售更多电动汽车都有助于提升销售收入。这些注重销售的策略可能会带来适得其反的效果,损害马斯克此前创下的大好局面。

但是,以眼下的股价而言,特斯拉要想继续保持股价上涨,难度会比以前大得多。

斯图尔特表示,董事会应该重新制定马斯克的薪酬计划,或是加入进一步提高特斯拉市值的全新激励措施,或是采取类似EVA的方式,根据马斯克是否可以在快速发展业务的同时创造丰厚的资本回报发放奖励。

特斯拉需要制定薪酬计划2.0,激励这位超级明星企业家继续带领企业用最快的速度向前发展。(财富中文网)

译者:钱功毅

2018年,特斯拉公司的董事会为创始人及首席执行官埃隆·马斯克制定了十年薪酬计划。这份迄今为止最成功的长期薪酬计划采取了一种极具创新性的结构,把马斯克的奖金收入和特斯拉市场价值的提升挂钩,并且取得了非常出色的效果。

这份薪酬计划实施仅三年,马斯克就已经带领这家电动汽车先锋企业,将市值翻了12倍。截至3月9日收盘时,特斯拉的市值已经达到了6470亿美元。

马斯克用比董事会预期短好几年的时间,完成了许多阶段性目标,带领特斯拉冲击一个又一个市值目标,并获得了相应奖励。

本文作者预计,马斯克将成为资本市场历史上,短期获得股票期权奖励最多的赢家:自2020年5月至今,他累积已经获得了317亿美元,其中仅2021年第一季度奖金就超过了100亿美元。

这几百亿美元奖金中的每一分每一厘都是马斯克应得的。虽然奖金数额惊人,但创造这些收入的正是他本人。

事实上,这只是他创造的巨额价值中的一小部分,特斯拉的股东并没有因为稀释股权而遭受多少损失——这也正是一份优秀的薪酬计划应当发挥的作用。

事实证明,“马斯克模式”为过去持有特斯拉股票的投资者和基金带来了其他企业望尘莫及的巨大成功。

然而,现如今购买特斯拉股票的投资者面临的前景并不乐观。董事会原本制定的是一份十年计划,而马斯克太过迅速地取得了成功,以至于这份计划出炉仅三年就要过时了。

班尼特·斯图尔特表示:“这份计划成为了其自身成功的牺牲品。计划本身的出发点很好,它有点类似杠杆股票期权,马斯克只有提高特斯拉的市场价值才可以得到奖励。但现在,他已经完成了所有市值指标,之前没有人能够想到这点。现在计划中就只剩下销售目标,和息税折旧摊销前利润目标了,首席执行官可以在不提高企业市值的情况下实现这些目标。”

斯图尔特是咨询公司Stern Stewart的联合创始人,他发明了“经济附加值”(EVA)工具,帮助企业从投入的每一美元资金中获取最大利润。

首先,我们来看看特斯拉“2018年首席执行官绩效激励”的内容。

这份计划分12笔向马斯克等额发放股票期权,每一笔发放845万股股票期权。2017年下旬计划最初拟定时,每笔股票期权占特斯拉总股本的1.0%;如今在发放给员工的期权和新股发行的稀释下,每笔股票期权占特斯拉总股本的比例降低到了0.88%。

马斯克的行权价为70美元,也就是计划开始时特斯拉的股价。而3月12日,特斯拉股价收报693.73美元,减去70美元的购买价格后能够计算出,每笔奖金的金额达到了令人震惊的52.71亿美元。

这12笔期权对应的是12个递进的特斯拉市值目标。第一个市值目标是1000亿美元,随后每个目标按500亿美元逐级递增。也就是说,马斯克要想赢得最后第12笔期权奖励,特斯拉的估值必须在一段时间内达到6500亿美元。

只有特斯拉的市值(以平均价格计算)在至少六个月内保持在规定的目标水平或以上,并且在这六个月前的30天内达到目标水平,马斯克才有资格获得一笔期权奖励。

仅仅达到市值目标,马斯克还不能直接拿到期权奖励。为此,他还要实现一个销售收入目标或息税折旧摊销前利润目标。

我们可以把这个计划想象成装了12个保险箱的金库,每个保险箱都需要两把钥匙才能打开。每个保险箱对应的第一把钥匙是市值目标。如果马斯克同时实现了一个新的经营目标,特斯拉就会把第二把钥匙也交给他,而这个经营目标既能够是销售收入目标,也可以是息税折旧摊销前利润目标。马斯克只有集齐两把钥匙,才能够打开下一个宝箱。

此外,这副“奖金手铐”还有一项重要条件:马斯克必须继续担任首席执行官,或同时担任执行总裁和首席产品官,才可以获得这些期权奖励。

销售收入和息税折旧摊销前利润分别设有八个难度递进的目标。这16个目标(或者说“钥匙”)打开金库中的12个保险箱绰绰有余。这给了马斯克一些回旋的余地。

特斯拉的市值达到最终目标后(事实上他几乎已经完成了这一壮举),他只要再实现16个经营目标中的12个,就能够打开所有保险箱,赢得所有期权奖励。每把钥匙仅可以使用一次,而且很难获得,因为目标数额增长很快。

销售收入方面,第一个目标是200亿美元,最后第八个目标是1750亿美元。息税折旧摊销前利润方面,第一个目标是15亿美元,最后第八个目标是140亿美元。

根据薪酬计划的设置,即使马斯克达成了市值目标,他也必须不断实现逐级递增的销售收入或息税折旧摊销前利润目标,才能够拿到第二把钥匙。

这份计划听起来似乎很不错,马斯克既要为股东带来丰厚的回报,又要确保特斯拉的基础业务强劲增长。问题是,马斯克已经或者说即将完成所有市值目标,而且比任何人所可以想象的都要早得多。

现在,他只要再实现任意一个此前未达成的销售收入或息税折旧摊销前利润目标,就能够解锁下一笔期权奖励。他不需要同时实现销售收入和利润目标。

我们将会看到,马斯克只要提高销售收入,就可以拿到余下大部分期权奖励。

2018年1月,特斯拉董事会推出这一计划时,这家电动汽车制造商的市值刚过500亿美元,也就是第一笔期权奖励对应市值目标的一半左右。令人惊讶的是,直到去年4月特斯拉股票才开始大幅上涨,2020年春季期间特斯拉市值持续六个月远超1000亿美元,马斯克这才“赚到了钱”。

特斯拉在去年5月的委托书和2月的10-k文件中披露,马斯克在去年6月这一季度先后实现了1000亿美元的市值目标,和12个月销售收入超过200亿美元的目标,赢得了第一笔期权奖励。

截至去年9月底,特斯拉股价在六个月间,由每股150美元上涨至每股约400美元,期间特斯拉平均市值超过2000亿美元。也就是说,马斯克实现了第二和第三个市值目标。

去年第三季度,特斯拉的年息税折旧摊销前利润达到51亿美元,超过了计划中第一个(15亿美元)和第二个息税折旧摊销前利润目标(30亿美元)。马斯克就此获得了将第二笔和第三笔期权奖励收入囊中的权利。

特斯拉官方表示,马斯克实现了市值目标,并且先后达成了15亿和30亿美元的息税折旧摊销前利润目标,赢得了第二笔和第三笔期权奖励。

截至去年12月这一季度,特斯拉市值攀升至第四个目标水平,超过2500亿美元大关。与此同时,马斯克实现了45亿美元的息税折旧摊销前利润目标。至此,马斯克拿到了打开第四个保险箱的两把钥匙。

截至今年3月初,势头强劲的特斯拉过去六个月间平均市值超过5500亿美元(1月22日,特斯拉市值达到了8370亿美元的高点),足够马斯克拿到第五笔至第十笔期权奖励的第一把保险箱钥匙。马斯克很可能在本季度实现两项经营目标,斩获第五笔和第六笔期权奖励。

四个季度息税折旧摊销前利润达到下一个目标的60亿美元并非难事,因为6月到12月期间特斯拉的息税折旧摊销前利润已经达到了49亿美元。接下来350亿美元的销售收入目标也是一个能够轻松实现的目标。

在这两项达标的经营业绩和巨额的市值加持下,马斯克应该可以在今年3月这一季度获得第五笔和第六笔期权奖励。

去年6月到12月,马斯克总共获得了四笔845万股股票期权。今年3月底前,他还将获得另外两笔股票期权。这些股票期权总计5070万股,如果按3月12日收盘价693.73美元计算,他将持有价值352亿美元的股票期权。

2020年5月底提交的最新委托书显示,马斯克已经行使了一小部分期权,换取了3050万美元特斯拉股票。目前他仍然持有所有这些股票。

根据2018年这份薪酬计划,他行使期权后不能直接拿到行权价和市场价格之间的现金差额。他必须先购买特斯拉股票,并持有这些股票至少五年,随后才可以出售股票。

目前马斯克获得的期权奖励价值为352亿美元,减去购买股票必须支付的每股70美元行权价,即35.5亿美元。因此,如果特斯拉的股价保持在目前的水平,马斯克自去年6月以来获得的六笔期权奖励,将使他的净资产在3月底达到惊人的316.5亿美元。

截至2021年3月17日,特斯拉过去六个月的平均市值超过6000亿美元。如果特斯拉目前市值维持在6610亿美元,那么薪酬计划中第11个市值目标很快就能够达成,马斯克将有资格获得剩下六笔期权奖励中的五笔。

如果特斯拉目前市值维持在6660亿美元,那么马斯克将有望获取第12笔期权奖励。这份原本超长期的薪酬激励计划,正在以令人难以置信的速度为马斯克及其股东带来回报。

息税折旧摊销前利润和销售收入

但是,马斯克已经敲响了特斯拉市值的警钟。

目前进一步提高特斯拉市值无法再为他带来更多期权奖励。未来马斯克再带领特斯拉加速前进时,原定的目标将会被他甩在身后。

诚然,马斯克希望看到自己的股票进一步升值,因为他有权用每股70美元的价格购买5000多万股票。但是马斯克能否拿到这笔巨额奖金(按目前的股价计算还有300亿美元),如今完全取决于他能否实现息税折旧摊销前利润,和销售收入目标。

斯图尔特指出,原本这份薪酬计划设计非常合理,因为马斯克只有大幅提高特斯拉的价值才可以赢得每一笔期权奖励。

“如果目标只有息税折旧摊销前利润和销售收入,那就糟糕了。”斯图尔特说,“但原本的薪酬计划要求马斯克不断提高股东回报,并将其与销售收入、息税折旧摊销前利润结合在了一起。这种设计很棒,因为它能够确保马斯克必须建立一家有实业支撑的企业,而不仅仅只是在股价出现泡沫时获得报酬。”

斯图尔特说:“我无法批判这一整个薪酬计划,看看它取得的结果吧!但就未来发展而言,这份计划已经不是最佳选择了。马斯克用三年时间,带领特斯拉突破了原定要用十年实现的市值目标,现在这份计划就变成只有销售收入和息税折旧摊销前利润目标了。”

简而言之,未来几年特斯拉董事会需要找到一种更好的方式,激励马斯克带领企业继续前进。

所以眼下,马斯克已经遥遥领先于原定计划。即便特斯拉的市值停滞不前或出现下滑,马斯克只要提高销售收入和息税折旧摊销前利润,就可以获得巨额奖金。

鉴于目前他已经实现,或者说很快就将实现的销售收入目标仅有两个,接下来他甚至无需实现任何一项要求盈利能力不断提高的息税折旧摊销前利润目标,只要确保特斯拉的收入强劲增长,就能够拿到余下的全部六笔期权奖励。

白手起家建立特斯拉时,马斯克要投入大量资金,生产革命性的产品。而现在,他需要集中精力提高特斯拉的盈利能力。审慎对待新的投资支出,对提高企业盈利能力至关重要。马斯克只有确保特斯拉投入汽车和电池制造的每一美元投资都可以获得高额回报,才能够继续为股东带来收益。为此,特斯拉必须防止在营销上投入过多资金。

目前原定的薪酬计划已经过时,因为它只会让马斯克不惜一切代价刺激收入。投资制造利润率较低的车型,或者降价销售更多电动汽车都有助于提升销售收入。这些注重销售的策略可能会带来适得其反的效果,损害马斯克此前创下的大好局面。

但是,以眼下的股价而言,特斯拉要想继续保持股价上涨,难度会比以前大得多。

斯图尔特表示,董事会应该重新制定马斯克的薪酬计划,或是加入进一步提高特斯拉市值的全新激励措施,或是采取类似EVA的方式,根据马斯克是否可以在快速发展业务的同时创造丰厚的资本回报发放奖励。

特斯拉需要制定薪酬计划2.0,激励这位超级明星企业家继续带领企业用最快的速度向前发展。(财富中文网)

译者:钱功毅

In 2018, the Tesla board fashioned a 10-year pay plan for founder and CEO Elon Musk that so far stands as the most successful long-term compensation blueprint in history. The structure is highly innovative in rewarding Musk for raising Tesla's market value, and it has delivered brilliantly. In the just over three years the program's been in place, Musk has multiplied the EV pioneer's value 12-fold to $647 billion at the market close on March 9. Musk hit many of the laddered targets that trigger the awards years earlier than the board could possibly have anticipated, leapfrogging one market-cap goal after another. His reward is what this writer anticipates to be the largest stock options award, secured in a brief period, in the annals of capital markets: $31.7 billion since May 2020, including over $10 billion alone in the first quarter of 2021.

Musk deserves every one of those multiple billions. Although the numbers sound mammoth, his big take is being paid out of what he created. In fact, it's such a small sliver of the mountain of value he's built that it's costing his shareholders relatively little in dilution. That's how a great comp plan is supposed to work.

While the Musk model has proved a runaway winner for folks and funds who've held his shares in the past, it's a lot less promising for investors buying today. This is a 10-year plan that triumphed so fast that it's mostly gone obsolete after just three years. "The plan's a victim of its own success," says Bennett Stewart, cofounder of consulting firm Stern Stewart and developer of the economic value added, or EVA, tool for squeezing maximum profits from each dollar in added capital. "The original was great because it resembled leveraged stock options; they vested only if Musk raised Tesla's value. But now he's satisfied all the market-cap metrics before anyone dreamed he could. What's left are sales and Ebitda goals that a CEO could gin up without increasing a company's value."

First, let's look at the building blocks of Tesla's "2018 CEO Performance Award." The program grants Musk the right to purchase options in 12 equal tranches of 8.45 million shares each. At the plan's origin in late 2017, each slice represented 1.0% of Tesla's shares; today, grants to employees and new stock offerings have lowered the dilution caused by each award to 0.88%. Musk's strike price is $70, at which Tesla was selling when the program launched. Since its shares closed at $693.73 on March 12, one award is worth a mind-boggling $5.271 billion, net of the $70 purchase price.

Each option grant corresponds to 12 ascending benchmarks for Tesla's market cap. They start at $100 billion and rise by $50 billion increments, so that for Musk to win the 12th and final award, Tesla's valuation would need to hit $650 billion for an extended period. Only if Tesla's market cap, based on its average price, stays at or above the required level for at least six months, and has met that mark for the 30 days prior to reaching the six-month goal, does Musk qualify for one of the dozen grants.

Musk doesn't automatically collect a heap of options by just meeting the market-cap goals. For a grant to vest, he also must achieve one revenue or Ebitda target. Think of the plan as a vault filled with 12 safety-deposit boxes, each of which requires two keys to open. For each box, the first key is released for hitting targets for valuation; Tesla hands Musk the second key if he also reaches one new operational benchmark that can be either a target for revenue or Ebitda. Only with two new keys in hand can Musk unlock the next treasure chest. Platinum handcuffs go along with the keys: Musk must also continue as CEO, or serve as both executive chairman and chief product officer, in order to receive the grants.

Each sales and Ebitda category has eight milestones that get more and more difficult. Those 16 goals (or "keys") are more than enough to open the 12 boxes in the vault. That gives Musk some latitude, since once he reaches the valuation bogeys—as it turned out, a feat that he's mostly accomplished—he could win all the awards and open all the boxes by hitting 12 of the 16 operational marks. Each key can be used only once, and they're hard to obtain because the numbers ramp up fast. For revenues, the eight levels start at $20 billion and rise to $175 billion; for Ebitda, the tiers run from $1.5 billion to an eighth and final target of $14 billion.

The program was structured so that even if Musk aced the valuation marks, he'd only get the next grant if he kept reaching higher and higher benchmarks for sales or Ebitda, enabling him to secure that second key.

Sounds like a great blend that demands big rewards for shareholders while ensuring that Tesla's underlying business grows robustly. The problem is that Musk has already beaten or is close to beating almost all the market-cap targets way ahead of any conceivable schedule. Now he can unlock the next grant by hitting any one of the sales or Ebitda bogeys that he hasn't yet reached. He doesn't have to nail a revenue and profitability objective at the same time. As we'll see, he could even get most of the remaining grants just by increasing sales.

When the Tesla board introduced the program in January 2018, the EV-maker's cap of just over $50 billion was around half the requirement for the first award. Amazingly, Musk didn't get "in the money" until the huge run that began in April of last year brought its trailing six-month valuation to well over $100 billion during the spring of 2020. As Tesla disclosed in its May proxy and also its 10-K in February, Musk won his first tranche in the June quarter by first reaching the $100 billion market-cap goal, and second registering sales, based on the trailing 12 months, of over $20 billion.

By the end of September, Tesla's price had soared in six months from $150 a share to around $400, raising its average market cap in that period to over the $200 billion required to qualify for tranches two and three. By Q3, Tesla's Ebitda was running at an annual pace of $5.1 billion. That enabled Musk to exceed the first two Ebitda goals of $1.5 billion and $3.0 billion. Hitting both enabled him to pocket the next two tranches. Officially, he won tranche two by matching the market-cap goal with scoring $1.5 billion in Ebitda, and tranche three by reaching $3.0 billion.

By the December quarter, Musk had climbed to the fourth rung in valuation, exceeding the $250 billion bogey. His Ebitda waxed the next leg of $4.5 billion. The combination handed Musk the two keys unlocking the fourth tranche.

By early March, Tesla was on such tear that its average, six-month market cap had reached over $550 billion (it hit a high of $837 billion on Jan. 22). That was already big enough to qualify for grants five through 10. Musk is likely to achieve two operating goals in the current quarter that will reap awards five and six. Beating the next Ebitda target of $6 billion over trailing four quarters should be a breeze since Tesla already posted $4.9 billion from June through December. It should also easily reach the next $35 billion sales milestone. Put those two operating beats together with the giant market-cap beat, and Musk should amass awards five and six in the March quarter.

Musk's total haul comprises four tranches of 8.45 million shares each from June to December, with another two to come by the close of March. That's a total of 50.7 million shares. At the March 12 closing price of $693.73, he'll be holding options on $35.2 billion in shares at face value. As of the latest proxy filing in late May 2020, Musk has exercised a tiny number of options that he had exchanged for $30.5 million in Tesla shares, all of which he still owned. If he does exercise options granted under the 2018 plan, he can't just pocket the cash difference between the strike and market prices. He has to purchase the underlying shares and hold all of them for at least five years before he can sell.

Right now, the value of Musk's grants is that $35.2 billion less that $70 "exercise price" he must pay to acquire the shares, amounting to $3.55 billion. Hence, Musk's six grants since June of last year will have lifted his net worth by an astounding $31.65 billion by the close of the March quarter, if Tesla's price remains near the current level.

As of today, Tesla's average valuation over the past six months is on the cusp of exceeding $600 billion. If Tesla settles at its current market cap of $661 billion, it will soon reach that goal. That qualifies Musk to receive five of the six remaining tranches. Sustaining its current valuation of $666 billion would put Musk in the money for slice number 12. What was designed as a super-long-term incentive is paying off incredibly fast, both for Musk and his shareholders.

Ebitda and sales

But Musk has already rung the bell on market cap. Raising Tesla's valuation from here won't get him any more grants. That destination's in the rearview mirror as he speeds ahead. Sure, Musk would like to see his shares appreciate a lot more, since he has options to buy over 50 million of them at just $70. But huge money, another $30 billion at today's price, now depends entirely on hitting targets for Ebitda and sales.

Stewart notes that the original plan was superbly fashioned because for Musk to win every tranche, he had to greatly increase Tesla's value. "It would have been bad if it was just Ebitda and revenues," he says. "But requiring better and better shareholder returns was baked into the plan. Coupling that with sales and Ebitda was good because it ensured that he'd have to build a business with substance behind it, and not just get paid if the stock was in a bubble.

"I can't criticize the overall plan; look at the results," says Stewart. "But it isn't optimal going forward. He's already burst through 10 years of market-cap performance in three years. Now it's all about sales and Ebitda." Put simply, Tesla's board needs a better way to motivate its superstar in the years head.

Hence, Musk can come out way ahead by pocketing huge grants if he increases those two metrics, even if Tesla's market cap flatlines or falls. So far he's hit, or will soon hit, only two of the sales goals. Achieving strong revenue growth alone could unlock all six of the remaining grants, without reaching any of the Ebitda targets designed to require rising profitability. This is a major weakness in the plan going forward.

Building the business from scratch required Musk to lavish giant amounts of capital on producing a revolutionary product. Now he needs to focus on profitability. Carefully targeting new investment spending will be critical to that effort. Musk can keep rewarding shareholders only by garnering high returns on each dollar Tesla invests in making cars and batteries. The company must resist spending gobs of capital to gun sales.

The current plan is already out of date, because it would reward Musk for spurring revenues at all costs. Pouring capital into models with relatively low margins or cutting prices to sell a lot more EVs would boost sales. Those go-go strategies would backfire by blunting what Musk's done so phenomenally well, but at these prices will be a far harder going forward: keeping Tesla's share price marching upward.

Stewart says that the board should recast Musk's comp plan to incorporate either new incentives based on raising Tesla's valuation from here, or an EVA-like measure that rewards him for generating high returns on capital while rapidly growing the business. Tesla needs a comp plan part 2.0 to keep its superstar driver in the fastest of fast lanes.

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