Musk Never Wanted to Be the CEO of Tesla Motors Inc. -- Does That Mean He'll Leave?

Tesla's cash flow and growth seem to be on a steady course, so is Elon Musk’s job done?

Jun 26, 2014 at 7:28PM

Elon Musk
Source:  Tesla Motors

"It was never my intention to be CEO. I tried to actually not be CEO quite hard," stated Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA).  Musk is without question a great innovator. But is he a good manager and leader? Some have wondered, with his fingers in so many pies, is his intention for Tesla to be a hit and run project after which he'll let somebody else take over the reins, or does he plan to stick around for awhile? Now that the hardest parts of development and adoption of its products seem to be in the company's rear-view mirror, and operations are comparatively on cruise control, it makes one wonder: Is Musk on his way out?

The big gathering
On June 3, Tesla Motors hosted its annual shareholder meeting, during which came an exciting, fact-filled, and inspiring question and answer session with Musk.

First, Musk offered a bit of background coloring about the company's accomplishments and other various bragging points, such as that Tesla's vehicles have been driven close to 344 million miles without a serious accident. Due to the software nerve center of the vehicles, Tesla knows exactly how many miles have been driven around the globe.

Having over-the-air access to information about its vehicles is a very valuable tool for tracking safety, satisfaction, and reliability for the company so that it can make adjustments when needed.

For the love of Tesla
Musk reminded the crowd at the meeting that the company is production limited, as opposed to demand limited. The biggest issue has been the supply of battery cells, which is being alleviated gradually this year and into next. Tesla wants to eventually open what it calls a "Gigafactory" to solve the battery supply problem. It's a long-term project that it has been implied that Musk will be staying around for but nothing had really been confirmed.

Musk did say during the presentation that he really wants "people to love their car." He added, "And in fact my goal is that people like the Model S more than their house. I think that is actually the case in some situations." That's another hint that he will stick around a while. A goal is something you usually pursue to the end. Otherwise it's just a hope. Still, it's not quite 100% confirmation.

Hit with the direct question
Deep into the Q&A session, somebody asked Musk directly what his plans are for an exit. Musk responded that nobody is CEO of a company forever, and that it's quite difficult to be CEO of two companies at once like he is. 

During the early days, Tesla was not doing well financially. Musk was put in the position of either becoming CEO or allowing the company to flounder and perhaps fade away. So, he figured what the heck, he'd give it a try. And here he is today. Perhaps his humility may have sparked rumors about a departure?

To dispel any myths, Musk assured the world that he will remain CEO through volume production of Tesla's third-generation car, which means that he'll stay at the helm for at least the next four to five years. Then he'll reevaluate and make sure he's not burnt out.

Besides, Musk has another billion reasons to stick around. His compensation package for hitting certain "operational milestones" entitles him to stock options worth currently $1.06 billion based on the company's current share price.

Foolish takeaway
Love him or hate him, Musk seems firmly planted in his position for the foreseeable future. Ignore the rumors that come up from time to time that say otherwise. He is a vital executive on every level and he is also the face of the company. Musk is Tesla. He's not going anywhere. Assuming that the company's, and his own, health remains strong, there is no other reason to expect anything different any time soon. 

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Nickey Friedman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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