It has been quite a ride this year for Tesla Motors Inc., and, despite some bumps in the road, shares of the electric-car maker are up more than 300%. The stock that investors place in CEO Elon Musk has also surged in 2013.
Musk has faced down the Tesla TSLA, +2.05% short sellers; paid off — years ahead of schedule — a big Energy Department loan; and staked a claim to the CEO-as-innovator-in-chief role most closely associated with the late Steve Jobs, with whom Musk draws frequent comparisons. Like Jobs, Musk has not hesitated to fire back at critics of his products, even those named George Clooney or Jeremy Clarkson.
For these reasons and more, Musk is the MarketWatch CEO of the Year for 2013, joining the ranks of previous MarketWatch CEO of the Year winners, including Ford’s Alan Mulally, Disney’s Robert Iger and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, as well as Apple’s Jobs, who in 2010 was named CEO of the Decade.
Beyond stock performance and even public persona, Musk, 42, who first came to prominence with the success of PayPal, dominated this year’s field with his uncommon blend of energy, innovation and relentless drive. Musk, not content to disrupt one industry at a time, also runs the first private-sector company to build rockets to supply the International Space Station.
Our other nominees this year — chief executives of publicly traded companies who made this a great year for their shareholders, employees and customers — were Reed Hastings of Netflix NFLX, -0.31% Gary Kelly of Southwest Airlines LUV, -0.94% Marissa Mayer of Yahoo YHOO, -1.96% Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn LNKD, +0.56% and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook FB, +1.09%
A year ago, when Musk addressed students at Oxford University, he told them that Tesla’s “goal is to create electric vehicles that are more compelling than gasoline vehicles as a product, ” and, this year, he has made that goal a reality.
Sales of the sleek and speedy electric vehicles hit 5, 500 in the latest quarter, claiming a considerable chunk of the luxury-automobile market. A network of high-speed electric chargers has been completed along the West Coast, and the one along the eastern seaboard is being extended.
The car has been introduced in Europe, where its sleek styling and politically correct power source carry cachet with elites.
In May, Tesla sent the U.S. government a check for $451.8 million, paying off its Energy Department loan with interest and, by the company’s count, nine years ahead of schedule. That followed a secondary stock offering that, unusually, caused barely a ripple of complaint among shareholders. With the company turning a profit for the first time, the loan repayment and Musk’s bold announcement that he would invest another $100 million in the company, there was little to balk at.
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