Nikola founder drops another 1 million shares on employees

Nikola Corp. (NASDAQ: NKLA) founder Trevor Milton is giving away more of his stock.

Two weeks after dropping 6 million of his personal shares on about 50 original employees — fulfilling a promise made at a Christmas party in 2017 — Milton is giving a six-figure gift to each of the rest of his 350 employees of the electric truck startup.

No press release like last time. Just a tweet from Milton.

“A complete surprise for everyone. … A lot of happy employees here in Phoenix,” a company spokeswoman texted FreightWaves on Wednesday.

MIlton acted a day after the company announced a deal with General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), which received about 47 million new shares of stock worth $2 billion to cover the costs of building the Nikola Badger electric pickup truck. GM also is supplying batteries and fuel cells for Nikola’s planned Class 7 and 8 heavy-duty electric trucks.

Three-year lockup

Even if the gifted shares are slightly diluted by the shares issued to GM, each employee grant is worth about $121,000 on paper based on Wednesday’s closing price of $42.37. The employees must stay with Nikola for three years to collect the shares. 

The 6 million shares to early employees need only be held until Nov. 30, roughly six months after Nikola went public in a reverse merger with VectoIQ, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). 

Milton is sensitive to how the gifts are perceived by outsiders.

“It is done to set an example for other execs to follow,” he said in another tweet. “I am required to disclose [to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission], so rather than let the trolls say I sold them, it is better to get ahead of it and explain I did not sell them, I gave them to employees who will earn them by working here. Not bragging, leading.”

Related articles:

Minting millionaires and building buzz at Nikola

Behind the scenes: How the GM-Nikola tie-up came together

GM will supply batteries and fuel cells for Nikola trucks

Click to read more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.