stacking up

How Elon Musk's $44.9B Tesla pay package compares with the most generous plans for other U.S. CEOs

Here's how Texan Elon Musk's unprecedented pay package compares to his peers. Photo via Getty Images

Even though the median U.S. CEO pay package last year was nearly 200 times more than a worker in the middle of their company pay scales, Elon Musk's record-setting Tesla compensation dwarfs them by comparison.

Tesla shareholders on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor of restoring Musk's 10-year pay plan, valued by the company in April at $44.9 billion. It was worth more early in the year, but Tesla's stock value has fallen about 25% since then.

The all-stock package, approved by the board and shareholders in 2018, rewards Musk for hitting milestones that include raising Tesla's market value, pretax income and revenue.

It had been tossed out by a Delaware judge in January who said the process for approving it was “deeply flawed.” The court ruled that Musk controlled the company's board, and shareholders weren't fully informed.

But the company said Musk deserves the pay because he turned Tesla into the top-selling electric vehicle maker in the world, increasing its market value by billions.

Even with the reapproval vote, Musk won't get access to the stock options just yet. Tesla is expected to ask the judge to revisit her decision in light of the vote, and if she doesn't, the company probably will appeal the ruling to Delaware's Supreme Court. The whole process could take months.

No matter the outcome, Musk's package — the largest award to a CEO of a U.S. public company — is far above what's been granted to other chief executives. Here's how the package compares:

WITH THE MEDIAN CEO PAY

The median pay package for an S&P 500 U.S. CEO last year was $16.3 million, according to data analyzed for The Associated Press by Equilar. If you multiply that by 10 to get $163 million for a decade of work, Musk's earnings still would be 275 times greater.

In her January ruling that struck down the package, Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick wrote that Musk's package, then worth about $56 billion, was 250 times larger than the median peer CEO's pay plan.

WITH INDIVIDUAL CEOS

The top earner in the AP's survey was Hock Tan, CEO of artificial intelligence company Broadcom Inc. His package, mostly consisting of stock awards, was valued at about $162 million, when given to Tan at the start of fiscal 2023. Thanks to a surging stock price, Broadcom in March valued Tan’s pay package, plus older options he hadn’t yet cashed in, at $767.7 million. That's an amount easily eclipsed by Musk’s potential haul of 304 million shares worth almost $45 billion.

Other CEOs at the top of AP's survey are William Lansing of Fair Isaac Corp, ($66.3 million); Tim Cook of Apple Inc. ($63.2 million); Hamid Moghadam of Prologis Inc. ($50.9 million); and Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix ($49.8 million).

Technically, Musk got no compensation last year because he didn't get any stock options. But he stands to get even richer if his pay package goes through.

WITH TESLA WORKERS

It's difficult to calculate what Musk's annual pay would have been last year. The company says he got nothing. But if his compensation package makes it through the courts, his pay will be in the billions. According to the company's proxy filing this year, the median annual pay of a non-CEO Tesla employee last year was $45,811.

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A View From HETI

Governor Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. Photo via X/Governor Abbott

With around 270,000 homes and businesses still without power in the Houston area almost a week after Hurricane Beryl hit Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday said he's demanding an investigation into the response of the utility that serves the area as well as answers about its preparations for upcoming storms.

“Power companies along the Gulf Coast must be prepared to deal with hurricanes, to state the obvious,” Abbott said at his first news conference about Beryl since returning to the state from an economic development trip to Asia.

While CenterPoint Energy has restored power to about 2 million customers since the storm hit on July 8, the slow pace of recovery has put the utility, which provides electricity to the nation’s fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm that left people without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. In the Houston area, Beryl toppled transmission lines, uprooted trees and snapped branches that crashed into power lines.

With months of hurricane season left, Abbott said he's giving CenterPoint until the end of the month to specify what it'll be doing to reduce or eliminate power outages in the event of another storm. He said that will include the company providing detailed plans to remove vegetation that still threatens power lines.

Abbott also said that CenterPoint didn't have “an adequate number of workers pre-staged" before the storm hit.

Following Abbott's news conference, CenterPoint said its top priority was “power to the remaining impacted customers as safely and quickly as possible,” adding that on Monday, the utility expects to have restored power to 90% of its customers. CenterPoint said it was committed to working with state and local leaders and to doing a “thorough review of our response.”

CenterPoint also said Sunday that it’s been “investing for years” to strengthen the area’s resilience to such storms.

The utility has defended its preparation for the storm and said that it has brought in about 12,000 additional workers from outside Houston. It has said it would have been unsafe to preposition those workers inside the predicted storm impact area before Beryl made landfall.

Brad Tutunjian, vice president for regulatory policy for CenterPoint Energy, said last week that the extensive damage to trees and power poles hampered the ability to restore power quickly.

A post Sunday on CenterPoint's website from its president and CEO, Jason Wells, said that over 2,100 utility poles were damaged during the storm and over 18,600 trees had to be removed from power lines, which impacted over 75% of the utility's distribution circuits.

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