It looks like James Murdoch, the chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, is the favored candidate to replace Elon Musk as chairman of Tesla.
That’s according to a report today in the Financial Times, which also includes remarks Murdoch gave recently about Elon at a Goldman Sachs conference. Speaking during the event about his time as a member of Tesla’s board, Murdoch said: “It’s been a really fascinating experience. What’s exciting about the company and about Elon is the goals are so audacious. He’s an entrepreneur who has some really audacious goals about what can be created and what can be settled for.”
This news comes on the heels of word that James is stepping down after the sale of 21st Century Fox’s assets to Disney wraps up. According to Variety, Murdoch is also mulling the possibility of setting up a technology investment fund, which would presumably dovetail nicely with a Tesla chairmanship. “The Tesla chairman job is perfect for James,” one source told the FT. “He’s working on this fund and will be sitting next to Elon… he’s going to get access to so much deal flow.”
As a reminder, as part of his settlement last month with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over that now infamous take-private tweet, Elon agreed to give up his role as chairman of the electric carmaker he leads as chief executive. The terms of that agreement included Tesla appointing a new independent chairman by the middle of November. 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.
The younger Murdoch and Elon are reportedly friends, with the former having joined Tesla’s board last year as one of a pair of new independent directors. Ironically, Murdoch joined as part of a bid to bring fresh perspective to a board that’s long been perceived as too beholden to (and too slow to rein in) the impulses of the company’s controversial CEO.
From the FT: “Tesla directors, including Mr Murdoch, issued a ringing endorsement of Mr Musk after he first rejected a settlement of the SEC fraud charges, a move that was widely condemned by boardroom experts and wiped 14 per cent off the company’s share price.”
Though the board has until mid-November to name a new chairman, as part of the SEC agreement, that deadline can be extended if Elon asks for it to be.
Update: Elon tweeted tonight that the Financial Times report is simply “incorrect” without elaborating
This is incorrect
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 10, 2018