Elon Musk denies being replaced by James Murdoch as Tesla chairman

Marco Green
October 11, 2018

The Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch's son joined the board a year ago after previously working with various media companies.

He is "the favourite" to replace Elon Musk, who now serves as both board chairman and chief executive, the Financial Times has reported. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tesla Inc. and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have put aside an insulting tweet by Elon Musk and asked a judge to accept a settlement of the fraud suit against the electric-car maker and its outspoken CEO. He's also paying a $20 million fine.

Musk agreed to step down as chairman of the auto company in late September as part of a settlement with the SEC. The deal with the SEC eased uncertainty over Tesla's future because the agency's lawsuit initially sought to bar Musk from serving as an officer or director of a public company, a prospect that rattled investors.

Earlier this year, the proxy advisor Glass Lewis and the pension fund CtW Investment Group pushed for shareholders not to reelect Murdoch to the board.

In addition to the monetary penalties, the settlement requires Musk to resign from his role as chairman of the board at Palo Alto, Calif. -based Tesla and "comply with mandatory procedures to be adopted by Tesla concerning the oversight and approval of his Tesla-related public statements", according to the filing.

CtW said that this was due to his lack of experience and his "troubled history as an executive and director", both of the proxy firms said that he served on too many boards.

Murdoch now serves on the boards of Twenty-First Century Fox and News Corp.

James Murdoch, whose father is Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire chairman of Fox News, is close to stepping down from his CEO position at 21st Century Fox pending its sale to Disney. He returned to Sky's board in 2016 after rebuilding his career at Fox.

Glass Lewis research director Courteney Keatinge said on Wednesday that while Murdoch's departure from Sky could alleviate some concerns, the Tesla chairmanship would still require a big time commitment as the company faces pressures on many fronts.

"I would still have reservations about the time he would be able to allot to this", Keatinge said. Also, as a caveat to the news about James, it should be pointed out that the FT's report today says external candidates are still being looked at.

Elon Musk: visionary leader, or liability for Tesla's legacy?

In a vote of confidence for Musk, shareholder T. Rowe Price Group Inc said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday that it had raised its stake by almost half to 10.2 per cent at the end of September from just under 7 per cent in June.

Mr Murdoch is now chief executive of the USA media giant 21st Century Fox, but he will step down after the firm completes the sale of much of its business to Walt Disney.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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