Tesla adds James Murdoch and Linda Johnson Rice to its board

Tesla has added two new independent directors to its board,
including 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch and Johnson
Publishing Company CEO and Chairman Linda Johnson Rice. The two
new board members were added just a few months after Tesla
confirmed it was seeking additional independent directors
without ties to CEO and founder Elon Musk.

Until now, Tesla’s board included five (of six total directors,
prior to these additions) people with either personal or
professional ties to Musk. A group of powerful investors in the
company, including the California State Teachers’ Retirement
System, issued a letter to the company in April asking for the
addition of two new independent members without direct ties to

Musk said at the time that Tesla had already been planning to
announce two new independent board members, ever since its
acquisition of SolarCity, the solar power company founded by
Musk’s cousins. Musk said via Twitter in April that the
activist shareholder group had “nothing to do” with the
decision to appoint these directors.

The same investor group also asked for annual elections for
board directors, a proposal which was failed at the company’s
annual shareholder meeting in June.

The new board members are very interesting additions – James
Murdoch is the younger son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the
driving force behind News Corp’s media empire, which includes
prominent newspapers like the Wall Street Journal. James
previously acted as News Corp’s Europe and Asia CEO, too, prior
to taking over leadership of 21st Century Fox, one of two
spin-outs of the original News Corporation focused primarily on
film and television. James claims an “instrumental” role in
21st Century Fox’s “decade-long leadership on environmental
sustainability” in his Tesla board member bio.

Linda Johnson Rice is also CEO of Ebony Media Operations, and
retains an emeritus chairman role at Ebony Media Holdings, the
company which oversees both the EBONY and Jet brands, meaning
both the new independent directors have media industry
experience. In addition to Tesla’s board, Johnson Rice has
served on a number of others, including current director roles
with Omnicom Group and Grouphub. In 2016, Johnson Publishing
Company sold Ebony and Jet to Clear View Group (which formed
Ebony Media Holdings), while retaining ownership of its Fashion
Fair cosmetics brand and photography archives.

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