Elon Musk’s $56 billion pay deal

Elon Musk, one of the most polarising figures in modern business, has once again captured headlines with his $56bn (£44bn) pay deal from Tesla.

This figure, now backed by 72% of voting shareholders, highlights both the immense value and the controversial nature of Musk's leadership.

For entrepreneurs, Musk’s journey offers a wealth of insights into risk-taking, innovation, and the complexities of high-stakes business management.

Musk’s portfolio is nothing short of extraordinary, encompassing Tesla, SpaceX, X (formerly Twitter), Starlink, Neuralink, and his latest AI venture, X.ai. Each company has pushed the boundaries of technology and industry norms. Tesla revolutionised the US market for electric vehicles, SpaceX launched the world’s most powerful rocket, and Neuralink demonstrated groundbreaking brain-computer interface capabilities.

The key question for entrepreneurs is: would these successes have been possible without Musk’s direct involvement?

The $56bn pay deal was structured to ensure Musk stayed at Tesla, requiring him to meet specific milestones related to market value, sales, and profitability.

Musk’s leadership style is unconventional. He eschews traditional communications teams, opting to engage directly with his 187 million followers on social media. This approach generates vast amounts of publicity – both positive and negative – that few others could achieve. His hands-on involvement and high profile add significant value to his ventures, demonstrating the power of a charismatic and visible leader.

However, Musk’s demanding nature can also be a double-edged sword. Former employees describe him as a workaholic who expects relentless dedication, which can lead to burnout. Yet, his ability to inspire and push boundaries is undeniable. As Dolly Singh, a former SpaceX employee, told the BBC: “If that wasn’t the case, he wouldn’t be accomplishing the things that he is.”

Entrepreneurs can learn from Musk’s willingness to take significant risks. His ventures have not been without failures – Tesla nearly went bankrupt, SpaceX has had costly rocket launch failures, and Neuralink faced initial technical issues. Despite these setbacks, Musk’s resilience and ability to pivot are crucial traits that have contributed to his long-term success.

Musk’s pay deal, despite shareholder backing, still faces legal challenges. The court’s decision on whether to allow the company to restore his pay remains pending.