Rivian CEO’s stake in electric car maker is worth $1.2 billion after IPO

A monster pay package for Rivian founder R.J. Scaringe lies beneath the hood of the electric vehicle-maker’s debut on the public markets. 

The Irvine, California-based automaker, which began deliveries of electric pickup trucks only weeks ago, rose 29% in its trading debut Wednesday to close at $100.73 per share, valuing Scaringe’s 1.7% interest at $1.2 billion. 

His stake in Rivian is small in comparison with Elon Musk’s 17% interest in Tesla Inc., or Bin Li’s 12% holding of Nio Inc., one of China’s biggest electric vehicle producers. But it could grow exponentially.

Scaringe owns about three times as many options as shares, according to the company’s prospectus. If the company hits all of its share-price benchmarks, his options could be worth as much as $10.2 billion, according to Bloomberg calculations. Altogether that would push his net worth to nearly $14 billion. That’s currently enough to be ranked among the top 160 richest people globally, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 

To realize the value of all 20.4 million performance-based options he was awarded in January, Scaringe will need to stick around until 2030 and Rivian’s share price must climb to $295, about triple its closing price on Wednesday. The aggressive targets mean that many of Scaringe’s options may never vest.

Massive moonshots

Ever since Elon Musk was awarded a “moonshot” pay package in 2018, it’s become more common for company boards to dangle massive potential payoffs in front of their chief executives to incentivize them to bet heavily on future growth. At least 15 corporate leaders got Musk-like awards worth $100 million or more last year, a threefold increase from when the Tesla chief executive officer got his. 

“It is only recently that we have been seeing these awards to receive a large number of shares if the stock price has high appreciation,” said Jay Ritter, a professor of finance at the University of Florida.

Scaringe’s relatively small stake in the company he founded is partly a result of having to raise capital from outside investors many times over. While Musk was already wealthy from the sale of PayPal Holdings Inc. to eBay Inc. for $1.5 billion, Scaringe at one point took out a mortgage on his home to raise cash. 

Wealthy families

Among Rivian’s early investors is Saudi conglomerate Abdul Latif Jameel Company, which will own a 13% stake after the offering. Led by billionaire Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel, the firm has made other bets on clean technology, including electric air-taxi developer Joby Aviation Inc.

The Cox family, which owns Cox Automotive, will own about 5% of Rivian. Sanford Schwartz, CEO of the Cox Family Office, is a director on Rivian’s board. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimated the family’s net worth at $38.6 billion earlier this year. 

Rivian’s biggest and best-known investor remains Amazon.com Inc., which will own almost 19% of the company after it completes its offering. Amazon gave the startup a major endorsement in 2019 when Jeff Bezos announced it was ordering 100,000 of Rivian’s electric delivery vans.

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