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Elon Musk demands massive new Tesla payday

Elon Musk has demanded a larger stake in Tesla that would nearly double his current share.

In a series of posts on X, the Tesla chief executive said he would be uncomfortable growing the automaker to be a leader in artificial intelligence and robotics without having at least 25 per cent voting control of the company.

“I am uncomfortable growing Tesla to be a leader in AI & robotics without having ~25% voting control. Enough to be influential, but not so much that I can’t be overturned,” Mr Musk wrote.

“Unless that is the case, I would prefer to build products outside of Tesla.”

Mr Musk previously held a stake of more than 20 per cent in Tesla, but now owns around 13 per cent of the company’s stock after selling billions of dollars of shares in 2022 partly to help finance his $44bn purchase of Twitter.

Tesla remains the leader in electric vehicles, but Mr Musk said he believes the company’s future lies in AI and robotics.

Elon Musk has demanded a larger stake in Tesla that would nearly double his current share (AP)
Elon Musk has demanded a larger stake in Tesla that would nearly double his current share (AP)

In January 2022, he said the company’s goal of building a humanoid robot is the most important technology it’s developing.

“This I think has the potential to be more significant than the vehicle business over time,” he said on a call with Wall Street analysts.

Tesla introduced its humanoid robot at its AI Day in September, but leaders at the company have noted that it is not ready for prime time.

At the AI Day, the robot, dubbed Optimus by Tesla, was seen walking stiffly on stage before it slowly waved at the crowd and gestured with its hands for roughly one minute.

Nevertheless, Tesla believes the robot technology is key to its future and to keeping its investors onside.

Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said the comments had created a “firestorm” for Tesla. “If Musk ultimately went down the path to create his own company (separate from Tesla) for his next generation AI projects this would clearly be a big negative for the Tesla story,” he wrote.

Mr Ives added that he expected the Tesla board would be able to resolve the issue. “We also believe Musk having a back and forth about such an important issue over X is far from ideal for the investment community,” he added.

Mr Musk, whose rank as the world’s wealthiest person is tied to his Tesla shares, is currently facing a lawsuit over his compensation package.

Tesla shared a video on 12 December, 2023, showing the latest version of its Optimus robot (Tesla)
Tesla shared a video on 12 December, 2023, showing the latest version of its Optimus robot (Tesla)

In 2018, his compensation package was worth $56bn - the biggest pay package for any CEO in history.

The deal was so large it prompted shareholder Richard Tornetta to take legal action against Mr Musk and the Tesla board over the 10-year pay package.

The package won approval from more than 70 per cent of Tesla shareholders but the lawsuit argued that many of those shares belonged to people closely tied to Mr Musk.

The lawsuit awaits a Delaware Chancery Court ruling on whether the pay was excessive.

Mr Musk said on X there was no “feud” with the board over his new compensation package and said the pending verdict was holding back the discussions.

“I should note that the Tesla board is great,” he said. “The reason for no new ‘compensation plan’ is that we are still waiting for a decision in my Delaware compensation case.”

“If I have 25%, it means I am influential, but can be overridden if twice as many shareholders vote against me vs for me,” Mr Musk wrote. “At 15% or lower, the for/against ratio to override me makes a takeover by dubious interests too easy,” he added.

The Independent has contacted Tesla for comment.