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Elon Musk's pay-deal vote is the ultimate 'meme stock' test for Tesla, investor says

Filip De Mott   

Elon Musk's pay-deal vote is the ultimate 'meme stock' test for Tesla, investor says
  • Shareholders are voting on whether to approve Elon Musk's massive compensation package.
  • It's essentially a vote deciding how central Musk is to Tesla, investor Roger McNamee told CNBC.
Tesla's path forward in the stock market is now in the hands of its shareholders as they vote on CEO Elon Musk's $47 billion compensation package, says investor Roger McNamee.

If the pay deal doesn't get approved, it could likely cost the company Musk's leadership, he said in a CNBC interview.

"It's a test of Tesla as a meme stock, because if Musk is no longer viewed as central to the story going forward, then I think Tesla starts to trade like a car company, as opposed to an extension of Elon Musk," the Elevation Partners co-founder said.

The sentiment echoes prior criticism Tesla has faced, with short-sellers like Jim Chanos nicknaming it a "hopes and dreams" stock: its success built more on a fascination with Musk, and not based in fundamentals.

It's the latest hurdle for the electric-vehicle maker, which has seen shares tank close to 40% this year, and who just announced new layoffs. Those job cuts came as the firm reported weaker-than-expected deliveries in the first quarter, notching its first year-over-year quarterly decline since 2020.

The hiccups prompted many analysts across Wall Street to trim their price targets on the EV giant.

McNamee also cited Musk's recent behavior as contributing to the stock downturn, a frustration other investors have also made public. Controversies have included the CEO's interaction with an anti-semitic post, and concern that he was distracted by his other companies.

But McNamee does expect the package to ultimately be approved. Wedbush Securities' Dan Ives agreed, but wrote on Wednesday that this won't spell the end to Tesla's difficulties:

"In our view the clock has struck midnight for Musk to now layout the growth strategy, give realistic delivery and margin goal posts, discuss why significant layoffs now, and most importantly give a clear outlook to the Street around Model 2," he wrote in a note, citing vagueness in what Tesla was actually focused on.

Amid other corrective measures, Ives has previously suggested for Musk to be offered a compensation package that would retain him as CEO til at least 2030.

"This vote is the test that investors get to say which way they want to go," McNamee said.