- The five founders of Tesla were Eberhard, Tarpenning, Wright, Musk, and Straubel.
- JB Straubel and Elon Musk are two founders who get rich.
- The majority of Eberhard’s Tesla stake was sold and he eventually left in 2007.Tesla’s most famous CEO is Elon Musk, but he isn’t its founder. The original CEO of Tesla, Martin Eberhard, and Marc Tarpenning both co-founded the company in 2003; however, neither became billionaires because they did not retain enough stock. From his PayPal windfall, Musk poured seed capital into Tesla, powering the company, and eventually earning him a controlling stake. Instead of receiving a salary, he opts for quarterly stock awards, which continues to increase his stake.
According to Forbes, Musk’s net worth was estimated to be $282 billion on Nov. 10. It was Musk’s seed capital resulting from an early investment in PayPal that allowed Eberhard and Tarpenning’s vision to become a reality.
Eberhard said in an interview with Forbes that he owns only a relatively small stake in the company without giving any details. “I sold a good chunk of my stock a long time ago. People somehow have the idea that I was a zillionaire when I started Tesla. I was not.”
The first carmaker to reach a 1 trillion dollar valuation was Tesla earlier this month, but the CEO who introduced the brand to the press 15 years ago did not become synonymous with it. In addition, he never became the richest person in history. Obviously, that’s Tesla’s earliest investor and current CEO, Elon Musk. As with Musk’s appearance at Tesla’s debut in 2006, he maintained a low profile that day, mainly emphasizing that cars should move away from gasoline power as soon as possible.
Musk and the founders first met at a Mars Society summit, and they bonded over their mutual interest in space exploration, according to an interview with CNBC. The company’s board of directors asked one of its initial founders, Eberhard, to resign from his role as CEO in August 2007. In 2001, he became “President of Technology” for the company before leaving in January 2008. Marc Tarpenning, the second founder of the company and its Vice President of Electrical Engineering, left in January 2008.
Only Straubel, who left Tesla in 2019, seems likely to have been a billionaire from his Tesla holdings out of the five original co-founders. If he holds on to a significant amount of Tesla stock when he leaves, his stake could be worth about $1.3 billion. Currently, Straubel is CEO and co-founder of Redwood Materials, a battery recycling startup.
In 2004, Engineering Wright left Tesla to start another EV company a few months after he joined Eberhard and Tarpenning. His stake was sold years ago.