James Murdoch, outgoing 21st Century Fox CEO and heir to the Murdoch media empire, was reported to be the favorite to replace Elon Musk as chairman of Tesla. Musk has denied the report on Twitter, saying “This is incorrect.”
Musk was required to step down last month as chairman of the electric car company he founded, as part of a settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The South African-born billionaire also had to pay a $20 million fine and submit to monitoring of his social media activity, including his Twitter account. Musk remains CEO of Tesla.
The Financial Times spoke to two people who confirmed Murdoch was first in line for the Chairman position, though his selection isn’t final.
Musk used his Twitter account (now supposedly monitored) to issue a curt denial of the report.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 10, 2018
Coincidentally or not, the response came at 4:20 pm PDT (the time zone of Tesla’s Palo Alto, California HQ). The numbers 420 are significant in marijuana culture – as well as in the tweet that cost Musk his chairman post to begin with. The fact was quickly picked up on by commenters.
— Robert Cerasa (@RobCerasa) October 10, 2018
James Murdoch has no manufacturing or automotive sector experience. He joined Tesla’s board in July 2017 and also serves on the boards of Twenty-First Century Fox and News Corp. Two proxy advisors, Glass Lewis & Co and Institutional Shareholder Services, advised investors to vote against reelecting Murdoch as a director in June, citing his lack of experience in the field, his “troubled history as an executive and director,” and his presence on “too many boards.”
Murdoch is leaving Fox as the company unloads its major TV and film divisions to Disney for $52 billion. His brother Lachlan Murdoch will become CEO of “New Fox.” Just six months ago, James was rumored to be starting a venture capital fund.
The SEC sued Musk last month, alleging securities fraud after the Tesla chief tweeted “false and misleading information” about potentially taking Tesla private, implying he had secured the necessary funding. Musk initially refused to settle, leading the SEC to double its fine from $10 to $20 million and increase the length of time Musk is barred from serving as Chairman from two to three years. As part of the settlement, Tesla must appoint two more independent directors to its board and implement procedures to oversee Musk’s online communications – including his Twitter account.
Tesla is under scrutiny for failing to produce its Model 3 sedan quickly enough and in sufficient volume to meet customer demand. Musk’s August 7 tweets caused the company’s stock price to spike over 6 percent. The billionaire, who also owns aerospace firm SpaceX, has been in the news recently as much for his erratic behavior as for his business ventures. He lashed out at a diver assisting in the Thai cave rescue, tweeting that the man was a “pedo” after the diver mocked his idea of building a miniature submarine to aid in the rescue, and gave an emotional interview with the New York Times last month in which he admitted his work prevented him from seeing family or even sleeping as much as he’d like to.
Al Gore, Warren Buffett, and Alan Mulally have also been floated as possibilities to replace Musk as Tesla Chairman, according to Business Insider.