Poor Elon Musk—his Twitter deal is falling apart, and his affair with the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin became public. Here’s a better deal for him: he can regain esteem, credibility, and respect by buying my status of tenured full professor. This acquisition will secure him the reputation of a scholar with a PhD from an Ivy League university with over 25 years of teaching literary studies in higher education, a distinguished publishing record, and recognition of community service.
A business valuation to determine the economic value of the status of full professor needs to assess the costs of the steps Mr. Musk will avoid in order to achieve a professorship himself. Here are seven ways Mr. Musk can value my professorship for purchase.
- First, the cost to reproduce achieving the PhD. It took me seven years of study at Princeton to earn the doctorate. Although I was fully funded during my time at Princeton, I assume their Graduate School would not find Mr. Musk in need of financial aid. Thus, graduate tuition at Princeton, were Mr. Musk to pursue my professorship on his own time, would cost him $60,410 per year, or $241,640.
- A takeover of my professorship also would save Mr. Musk cost-of-living expenses to support him for those seven years of full-time study that he would normally devote to running his companies. I cannot find data that shows how much money he needs to support the three or four mothers of his children, nor the eight or ten children themselves. I am willing to give him a break as a fellow Penn Quaker and underestimate his family expenses by establishing them at $1 million a year. Over seven years, that would total $7 million.
- The loss of income he would face if he tried to attain an equivalent of 25 years of my academic knowledge and rank would be quite steep. My offer package therefore also includes two decades of building expertise in my discipline (published scholarship, creating syllabi, experience grading papers, practiced ability to look interested at boring meetings). It is hard to put a price tag on such an intangible benefit, so let’s undervalue it (as universities routinely do) and call it $1 million, or $40,000 a year.
- When valuing an offer, it is important to consider the life expectancy that one has to benefit from the acquisition. Since Mr. Musk is 51 and the life expectancy of white males in the US is almost 79 years, and since there is no mandatory retirement age in academia, he has 28 years to enjoy the stature and esteem of being in the Ivory Tower. Again, such goodwill is hard to value, but since an academic professorship would immensely boost his reputation and credibility, we can value it at the low price of $1 million a year, or $28 million total.
- In buying my professorship, Mr. Musk will receive my paychecks, and thus we can calculate the net present value of future earnings for the approximate 28 years he will hold my position. I earn about $80,000 a year and have not had regular raises, not even cost-of-living raises. Thus, it is hard to calculate how much my salary will rise over the next 28 years since I actually take a pay cut every year that I do not receive a cost-of-living increase. To keep things simple, over the next 28 years at my current salary, I can expect to earn $2,240,000, all of which will accrue to him.
- Because he would own my professorship, I also will sign over to Mr. Musk the continued income stream from future sales of my five published books, and the four I am working on. I regularly get statements from my academic publishers alerting me that they are withholding payout of my royalties until they total $20. If about every five years my royalties total $20, that’s $100 total for my current books every half-decade. Thus, over the 28 years of holding my professorship, Mr. Musk can count on a solid continuous income stream of $500. However, when he takes over authorship of my books, he can direct the attention of his tens of millions of Twitter followers to the titles, which will greatly increase sales. I’ll throw the transfer of title for free in our dealings, along with the projected earnings of my current four book projects, as a measure of goodwill.
- Business valuation calculations typically include the worth of equipment, inventory, and property. My university provides an office, computer, printer, and photocopy machine, so he wouldn’t need to purchase those from me. My office does include original art (made by my children) that is not part of this valuation. Some students who were particularly enthusiastic about reading Thoreau brought me a mason jar of water from Walden Pond in 1999. Since a water sample from the pond from 23 years ago is nearly impossible to come by today, I am willing to sell it to Mr. Musk for $100. My office also contains hundreds of books, but the most expensive ones came free from publishers, so it would be unethical of me to sell them.
The total valuation of the cost of reproduction of a PhD, cost of living while earning the degree, acquisition of expertise, goodwill, and future earnings is $38,481,740.
If this price seems reasonable for Mr. Musk to rehabilitate his reputation by acquiring my professorship, I can be reached on Twitter at @Profship4sale.