Axon (NASDAQ:AXON) CEO Patrick Smith shares some similarities to Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) founder Elon Musk, including his compensation package and business acumen, which have paid off for Smith and the company so far.
In this segment of “Industry Focus” on Motley Fool Live, recorded on Dec. 1, Fool contributors Emily Flippen and Brian Stoffel discuss Smith and his role going forward with Axon.
Emily Flippen: One thing that I think is worth noting. I’ve always found this an interesting aspect of this company, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it, it’s the founder CEO’s compensation package.
A number of years ago, Smith opted to not receive a salary-based paycheck and instead be compensated on the market cap of the business. Now there were a lot of rules put in place. Obviously, Axon couldn’t go out and acquire a very large business to artificially inflate the market cap. So it’s a diluted version. But the general thesis was Smith said, “Hey, I think Axon is going to be a much larger business in the future and I want to prove it and I want to put my money where my mouth is.”
So as notches of market cap increased, so did Smith’s compensation largely stock-based, and that does cap out at about $15 billion. Earlier in November, we saw Axon have a pretty stellar quarter. The share price shot up above $15 billion pre-market, came back down post-market. It’s around 12-13 today. But I wonder what happens to Smith’s compensation package once Axon gets that $15 billion and stays there for a bit?
Brian Stoffel: When I think about this, here’s what I think about. Patrick Smith, if you’re listening, I love what your company has done, I think it’s so important, so don’t take offense to this. But in our notes we wrote, he can be a bit of a nut. But he really does believe in this mission of eradicating the bullet.
I’m reminded of something that Morgan Housel said. Morgan was writing about Elon Musk. Morgan said you can’t get someone who’s willing to break all the rules to accelerate our transition to sustainable energy because someone who’s trying to actually do that has to be a little bit crazy because you don’t get there by following all the rules. But, you also are going to get the downside of crazy by getting someone who focuses like that. We’ve seen that play out over the last 10 years. He’s accomplished way more than anyone thought he would, and we’ve seen what that crazy can look like.
Now the whole reason I bring that up is to say that I believe that Smith has some of that too. I think he truly believes he’s laid out a vision for what policing can look like by 2030, and it is vastly different than what we, unfortunately, have to see on the newsreels these days.
I think that Axon can be an enormous force for good in that respect the same way that Tesla is. The connection between these two is that Smith’s compensation package has been exactly modeled after Musk’s. In fact, Axon’s Board of Directors when they announced the way that this was going to be done, said explicitly, we are modeling this after Elon Musk’s package.
All of that is to say that he might stick around, he might not. I would be surprised if he left because just in my bones, I feel like this matters to him a lot and he wants to be there to see it through. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some new form of compensation package that also is tied to reaching certain goals till 2030. That’s just a guess. Obviously, I don’t know the gentleman personally at all, but he is very passionate about seeing policing being very different by 2030.
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