The drummer who threw Elon Musk’s Tesla $56B pay into limbo

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By Dan Sears

The case that stripped Elon Musk of his record-breaking $56 billion pay package at Tesla was spearheaded by a shareholder who did a stint playing drums for a heavy-metal band.

Kathaleen McCormick of Delaware’s Court of Chancery deemed Musk’s compensation “an unfathomable sum” that was unfair to shareholders five years after Tesla stockowner Richard Tornetta originally brought a lawsuit against Musk on Tesla’s behalf as part of a shareholder derivative lawsuit.

Tornetta — who manned the drumkit for Philadelphia-based thrash band Dawn of Correction — was the single shareholder plaintiff named on the suit, filed in 2018, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Tornetta — who also named several Tesla directors in his lawsuit, and reportedly held just nine shares of the electric vehicle-maker at the time of the filing — played the skins for Dawn of Correction from when the group formed in 2005 until its split in 2007.

In those two years, the group released a studio album, “Dead Hand Control,” and played in the 2006 Metal Fest, per an interview with Tornetta posted to MetalUnderground.com in the walkup to the music festival.

Richard Tornetta, a Tesla shareholder who describes himself as a “marketer, inventor, custom fabricator, car guy, family man and drummer,” spearheaded the case that’s leaving Elon Musk’s $56 billion pay package at Tesla in limbo. Sparked Innovations/Facebook

Per Tornetta’s profile on F6S — a network that connects startups to funding opportunities — he has gone on to work in the marketing department at online real estate marketing service Homecast.

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He describes himself on F6S as a “marketer, inventor, custom fabricator, car guy, family man and drummer,” and touts that he “designed and built an illuminated headpiece for onstage drumming performances.”

“That’s a fancy way of saying I made a mohawk that lights up while I’m playing drums,” Tornetta wrote, further boasting that his creation “features 32 tricolor LEDs, resistor heat sink panel, one-foot length of 5500K IP67 LED strip, 16 pin molex tether with hand-braided leads, custom-molded epoxy coated fiberglass helmet, and portable control box complete with four DMX controllers, strobe module, and 12VDC power supply.”

Tornetta’s F6S profile also says received his degree in industrial design from Philadelphia University.

It’s unclear whether Tornetta has sold the nine shares of Tesla stock he owned when he first brought legal action against the company, or if he’s scooped up more shares of the EV firm, which has seen its share price surge nearly 800% in the five years since Tornetta filed his complaint.

The outcome of the lawsuit leaves a handsome chunk of Musk’s fortune in limbo.

As it currently stands, Musk is the richest person in the world, with a $202 billion net worth — most of which is thanks to the 52-year-old’s Tesla shares, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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Tornetta’s lead lawyer, Greg Varallo of the New York-based law firm Bernstein, Litowitz, Berger & Grossmann, told The Journal of the board’s decision to award Musk the largest pay package in corporate America: “This would be as though it never happened.”

“Swept up by the rhetoric of ‘all upside,’ or perhaps starry eyed by Musk’s superstar appeal, the board never asked the $55.8 billion question: Was the plan even necessary for Tesla to retain Musk and achieve its goals?” decision, McCormick wrote in her decision.

Tornetta was the singular shareholder plaintiff named in the shareholder derivative lawsuit, which was initially filed in 2018. Bullhead/YouTube
Tornetta (left) played drums in the heavy-metal band Dawn of Correction, which formed in 2005, released a studio album in 2006 and split in 2007. Encyclopaedia Metallum

“Good day for the good guys,” Varallo said in an email to The Post immediately following McCormick’s ruling in favor of Tornetta.

The Post sought comment on Thursdasy from Tornetta as well as Varallo.

The 64-year-old Varallo, the head of the firm’s Delaware office, joined the litigation in 2021 before the trial began in 2022, according to The Journal.

At the time, Tornetta had just survived a motion to dismiss by Tesla’s board of directors, The Journal reported.

As it stands, Musk is the richest person in the world with a $202 billion fortune. REUTERS

Though McCormick said her 201-page opinion that Musk’s compensation plan “seems to have been calibrated to help Musk achieve what he believed would make ‘a good future for humanity,’” the ruling can be appealed in Delaware Supreme Court.

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“Never incorporate your company in the state of Delaware,” Musk said in a post on X, the social media platform he bought in 2022.

Originally named Twitter, Musk — who also serves as the CEO of SpaceX — moved its state of incorporation to Nevada from Delaware after his purchase.

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