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Rivian founder R.J. Scaringe is worth $2.2 billion after company’s IPO

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RJ Scaringe, founder and CEO of Rivian, speaks during a reveal event ahead of the Los Angeles Auto Show on Nov. 27, 2018.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

After its first two days of trading in 2010, electric vehicle maker Tesla had a market cap of just over $2 billion.

R.J. Scaringe, the CEO of EV manufacturer Rivian, is worth that much on his own after his company’s second day on the public market.

Rivian shares popped 57% in their first two days on the Nasdaq, giving the company a market cap of almost $105 billion. Scaringe, who founded Rivian in 2009, owns 17.6 million shares, valued at $2.2 billion, based on Thursday’s closing stock price of $122.99.

Scaringe, 38, lured investors to his vision for an EV company that will sell to both consumers who want to go electric, and companies that are trying to drastically reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. In his letter to shareholders in the IPO prospectus, Scaringe said that in 2012 he moved away from an effort to build an “efficient sports car” and started focusing on how to “maximize impact.”

“We began thinking about the truck, SUV, and crossover segments as they presented a massive opportunity for us to demonstrate how a clean sheet, technology-focused vehicle could eliminate long accepted compromises,” Scaringe wrote. “We wanted to establish our brand by delivering a combination of efficiency, on-road performance, off-road capability, functional utility, and product refinement that simply didn’t exist in the market.”

Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC Pro

The company says it has 55,400 pre-orders for its R1S SUV and R1T pickup truck and a contract to build 100,000 electric vans with Amazon by 2030. However, trusting Rivian to assemble the vehicles and deliver them profitably represents a massive gamble for investors who are already valuing the company higher than traditional auto giants Ford and General Motors. The company has never recorded revenue and expects less than $1 million in sales in the third quarter.

But business fundamentals aren’t driving the current run-up in EV stocks.

Since Tesla’s relatively tepid IPO in 2010, the EV market has turned into a haven for speculators, with Tesla serving as the catalyst. On a split-adjusted basis, Tesla went public at $3.40 a share. It closed on Thursday at $1,063.51 and is one of only five U.S. companies valued at over $1 trillion.

Others in the space have skyrocketed of late, with China’s Nio valued at $69 billion and California’s Lucid Motors worth about $73 billion four months after hitting the public market.

Nio reported third-quarter revenue of about $1.5 billion and an operating loss of over $150 million.

Lucid just confirmed last month the first customer deliveries of its $169,000 Air Dream Edition sedan were set to begin. In its presentation to to investors, the company projected full-year revenue of $97 million.

Scaringe has control

Tesla is the only one of the group that’s turned into a profitable high-growth business, but it’s still a car company that trades like a software maker. Much of the hype is tied to boisterous CEO Elon Musk, the richest person on the planet. He has a net worth of close to $300 billion, mostly tied to his Tesla holdings.

Scaringe, who has a PhD in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is far from Musk’s financial mark. But he has created a similar ownership structure that gives him outsized authority.

Rivian, which is based in Irvine, California, has two classes of stock. Scaringe owns just 1% of Class A shares, or those held by the broader investor base and available for trading. But he owns 100% of Class B shares, and each one has 10 times the amount of voting control as a Class A share.

Add it all up, and Scaringe, who is also chairman of the board, has 9.5% voting control. His veto power is even greater. That’s because in order to make any major changes at the board level or in the company’s bylaws, the holders of at least 80% of Class B shares would have to go along with the move.

In addition to his hefty equity holdings, Scaringe has the opportunity to dramatically increase his wealth if the company performs well. In January, the board approved an equity award of 6.8 million shares that’s time based and an award of 20.4 million shares, which vest in 12 installments based on where the stock is trading.

The company acknowledges in its prospectus that a bet on Rivian is a bet on Scaringe.

“We are highly dependent on the services and reputation of Robert J. Scaringe, our Founder and Chief Executive Officer,” the company says, in the risk factors section of the filing. “Dr. Scaringe is a significant influence on and driver of our business plan. If Dr. Scaringe were to discontinue his service due to death, disability or any other reason, or if his reputation is adversely impacted by personal actions or omissions or other events within or outside his control, we would be significantly disadvantaged.”

Scaringe isn’t alone in generating a windfall from his company’s IPO. Rivian’s corporate backers are sitting on even bigger sums.

Amazon, which invested more than $1.3 billion in Rivian, owns a stake worth $19.7 billion as of Thursday’s close. The company said in September that its equity investments, including Rivian, were worth a total of $3.8 billion.

T. Rowe Price and its funds own shares in Rivian valued at over $16 billion. Global Oryx, a unit of Saudi Arabia’s Abdul Latif Jameel Companies, controls about $14 billion worth of shares, while Ford owns a stake worth $12.6 billion.

WATCH: Who is Rivian’s billionaire founder?

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