Elon Musk sells $5 billion in Tesla shares, partly to cover taxes on stock options.

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Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said Wednesday that he sold about $ 5 billion worth of Tesla shares, in part to cover his tax liabilities following the exercise of options on a large tranche of shares.

According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Musk sold about 4.5 million shares Monday through Wednesday. Tesla shares closed Wednesday at $ 1,067.95, which is valued at about $ 4.8 billion, but some were sold at a slightly higher price.

In the filing, Musk said he sold about a million shares “exclusively” to cover taxes on 2,154,572 shares, which he purchased at $ 6.24 apiece. Those shares, which he acquired for a total of $ 13.4 million, immediately became worth about $ 2.3 billion. Later on Wednesday, he announced the sale of an additional 3.6 million shares.

Mr. Musk still owns nearly 17 percent of Tesla, which is worth about $ 180 billion. Tesla’s market valuation recently surpassed $ 1 trillion.

This weekend mister Musk posted a poll on Twitter asking his followers whether he should sell 10 percent of his shares, referring to the political debate over whether the richest Americans should be taxed according to their wealth rather than their income. He said he would abide by whatever the respondents chose, and about 58 percent said they would sell.

Regardless of the survey, the disclosure showed that Musk developed a plan to sell shares when buying options in September. Musk has over 20 million stock options worth nearly $ 30 billion, which expire in August. Many of these options are unlikely to qualify for preferential tax treatment, which means it could run into billions of dollars in taxes if it uses all of them.

Tesla shares fell 16% in two days of trading after it was posted on Twitter, although they rose 4.3% on Wednesday before Musk revealed his deals. Tesla shares surged in the secondary market following its disclosure.

Stephen Gandel made reporting.

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