Elon Musk has been selling millions of Tesla shares.
Musk exercised more management stock options granted back in 2012, buying about 2.2 million Tesla (ticker: TSLA) shares for $6.24 each. He then sold another 934,091 shares to pay taxes. That makes sense because management stock options gains are taxed like regular income when they are exercised.
Investors are aware that Musk is exercising, but the pace has been agonizingly slow. This is the eighth time he’s exercised a tranche of management stock options. To finish, he has four more tranches to exercise over the coming two weeks—if his recent buying and selling pattern holds.
Thursday, he sold the 934,000-plus shares in 58 separate transactions. He has sold stock associated with the options exercising in an incredible 455 separate transactions.
Including other stock recently sold—not part of the options exercise—Musk is up to almost 13 million shares sold in about 740 separate transactions. The shares sold are worth about $13.6 billion.
The slow pace of sales has been a problem for the stock. Shares are down about 24% since Musk announced his intention to sell some stock. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average are both down roughly 1% over the same span.
The 13 million shares represent about 7.6% of the roughly 170 million shares Musk held before he started exercising options. Even with all the recent selling, Musk now holds about 175 million shares of Tesla stock. His holdings have increased because he’s held on to about 1.3 million shares every time he’s exercised one of his stock option tranches.
It’s odd math. But the process to sell billions worth of Tesla stock so quickly, in so many separate transactions, is also, frankly, a little odd. Still, most investors appear to believe Musk’s ultimate goal is to sell 17 million shares in total. He committed to selling 10% of his stake when his stake was at the 170 million mark.
If 17 million is the right number, then Musk’s selling is nearing an end.
Write to Al Root at [email protected]