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.

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.