Elon Musk said that he needed to receive what amounted to the largest compensation package in history so that he could fuel his goals around “inter-planetary travel,” Tesla board chair Robyn Denholm testified Tuesday.
Denholm’s testimony came as part of the week-long trial in the Delaware’s Court of Chancery in Wilmington that examines Musk’s 2018 Tesla compensation package that has a net value today of $50.9 billion. Musk himself is scheduled to testify Wednesday morning.
Musk has long claimed that he intends to use his vast wealth in pursuit of space travel and colonization. In 2020, Musk said in an interview with Axel Springer he would own “almost no possessions with a monetary value,” instead devoting this capital to developing a city on Mars.
Later in her testimony, Denholm said that the compensation was ultimately about motivating Musk to focus his attention on Tesla, rather than the specifics of what he’d do with the money.
“Quite honestly, I don’t know how much it costs to do any inter-planetary travel. It’s not a hobby of mine,” Denholm said.
Beyond Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter, Musk also leads the Boring Company, which specializes in underground tunneling, and is the founder of Neuralink, which seeks to put computer chips in people’s brains.
The company’s driving interest in awarding Musk such an enormous compensation package was to keep his focus on Tesla, as opposed to his other companies. Denholm said Tuesday that Musk’s previous compensation package before the 2018 plan wasn’t adequate to keep him engaged at Tesla.
“It was around motivating him to achieve things that were bold and audacious and him putting his time and energy into that as opposed to his other interests,” Denholm said.
She said the exact amount of hours Musk would work was not important, rather that the board needed his “focus and attention.”
Whether Musk’s compensation plan is sufficient to keep him focused on Tesla could be in question. Much of Musk’s attention of late appears focused on a splashy investment he has made since the compensation plan helped him become the world’s richest man, though it doesn’t involve inter-planetary travel. Musk spent $44 billion recently to buy Twitter, the social media platform.
He’s since laid off half the staff and employees have described a chaotic transition as Musk says he’s trying to return it to profitability.
Musk last year that he would be surprised if the company had not put a person on Mars by 2026. As of this writing, however, SpaceX has yet to send a person beyond Earth’s orbit.