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A 27-year-old billionaire’s self-driving startup poached Tesla’s lawyer by paying him $30 million

March 8, 2022, 11:32 PM UTC
Portrait of Austin Russell CEO of Luminar
Austin Russell has found another way to irk rival Elon Musk: by poaching his employees.
Courtesy of Luminar

Austin Russell, the 27-year-old billionaire and founder of Luminar Technologies, has been challenging Elon Musk with his self-driving startup for years.

Now he just swept away Tesla’s company lawyer too. 

The youngest self-made billionaire onboarded ex-Tesla lawyer Alan Prescott as Luminar’s new chief legal officer, offering a hefty compensation package of almost $30 million dollars, according to Bloomberg

Prescott received not only $29.5 million in stock awards but also $205,700 in cash and a $50,000 bonus which will be paid out over the course of six years, the company’s 10-K filing revealed. 

Since the lawyer previously worked at high-level positions at companies like Ford and Uber, Luminar says that Prescott’s pay package is fitting for his level of experience and is similar to what he was receiving at Tesla. 

Prescott was also joined by board member, Katharine Martin who received a compensation package of almost $636,000 comprised of $57,917 in cash and the rest in stock grants that will be paid out over 3 years.

Although Tesla is also developing autonomous vehicles, the key difference between the two companies is in the technology they’re using. 

Russell’s Luminar relies on lidar technology, short for “light detection and ranging,” to detect the car’s surrounding environment, while Musk prefers using sensors and cameras for Tesla’s self-driving cars, saying lidar is “freaking stupid…expensive and unnecessary,” according to CNBC.

But it seems like Russell knows what he’s talking about.

Russell’s company is backed by billionaire Peter Thiel and has had more than 50 commercial partners on his client roster, including industry giants like Volvo, Toyota, and Intel.

At the beginning of 2022, Mercedes-Benz announced its partnership with Luminar for its upcoming line of luxury vehicles, acquiring up to 1.5 million Luminar shares as part of the deal. 

Luminar’s continued successes and most recent buyout of Tesla’s VP of legal is showing a lot of promise for Austin Russell. 

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