Did Tesla Shareholders Do the Right Thing Keeping Musk On?

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Both Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis recommended that an independent chairman be installed at Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA ). Tesla stockholders felt otherwise, voting to keep Elon Musk firmly in charge. If you own Tesla stock it's very good news. Here's why.

First, let me say, I'm a little biased.

While I don't own Tesla stock, I believe America's path to greatness lies in the success of innovators like Elon Musk rather than low corporate tax rates or tougher immigration policies. America has always been the land of innovation and creativity; to install an independent chairman at this point in Tesla's evolution might appease the corporate governance wonks but it won't help produce more vehicles each week. It just won't.

At the annual shareholders meeting Tuesday in California, Musk was honest and frank about the company's difficulties getting the Model 3 out the door. It's abundantly clear that he cares deeply about Tesla's mission … having his brother on the board probably helps keep Musk grounded when times get tough as has been the case for much of the past two years.

When you're tackling difficult tasks you want people around you that you trust and who aren't afraid to speak their mind.

I highly doubt a well-paid independent chairman would be nearly as honest as his brother. At least, if he has the usual brotherly relationship, which I have no reason to think otherwise.

Let's Not Forget, Musk Owns 22% of Tesla Stock

I'm always amazed when big institutions like to play holier than thou when it comes to corporate governance. "We represent thousands of shareholders and have an obligation to do what's right," goes the saying.

Oh, really? Is it possible they just like to throw their weight around with other people's money? I'm not saying that's what's happening here but Elon Musk owns 21.9% of the company , more than double the stake held by Fidelity, the next largest shareholder.

How is it even possible that CtW Investment Group - owners of just 0.18% of Tesla's stock - is able to get such a prominent role in Tesla's affairs? It's simply ludicrous.

My grandfather was a successful movie-theater executive in the 1950s and 1960s. If he wanted a seat at the table, he had to make a significant personal investment much greater than 0.18% to have a say in the operations of the business outside his regular duties as CEO. That's just the way things worked back then. There were no free rides.

Today, activist invest investors can make all kinds of headlines without a significant financial commitment. And yes, the irony's not lost on me that I'm making a stink about over-the-top corporate governance by writing this article without owning Tesla shares. My bad.

Tesla Without Musk

Seriously, if you own Tesla stock, could you imagine it being run by Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F ) CEO Jim Hackett? I sure couldn't. Hackett is used to executive perks and deferential treatment by his subordinates. Those working in Tesla's management offices probably come to work each day hoping that the lights are still on and cars are rolling off the assembly line.

In this situation, you want someone who's personally invested in the outcome. Perhaps I'm being melodramatic, but Musk's that person. Take him out of the equation and there is no Tesla. It's not the same situation as Howard Schultz leaving Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ: SBUX ). Starbucks is a mature, profitable, and still-growing company. Schultz will always be the "guy" behind Starbucks, but life will go on.

I just don't see how anyone replaces Musk including someone to watch over the crazy professor as he pushes the company to deliver 5,000 vehicles per week by the end of June.

Bottom Line on Tesla Stock

In early May, I said I see Tesla stock going to $400 rather than $200. Nothing has changed my mind; I still feel this way. Last year, I predicted that it would hit $500 by this March , a wildly over-optimistic call on my part. We are definitely not close to getting there…


Here's how I finished that article.

"Frankly, I think Tesla stock gets to $500 by this time next year, because by then we'll know if the Model 3 is a success or failure. When it starts making money, and that's a big if , $1,000 will look like chump change in the scheme of things. Unfortunately, there's a lot of water to go under the bridge yet. If you're long, I'd stay long. If you're short, good luck to you, and if you don't own TSLA stock, I wouldn't get overly aggressive in your purchases until its future is a little more clear."


As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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The post Did Tesla Shareholders Do the Right Thing Keeping Musk On? appeared first on InvestorPlace .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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