Tesla has reportedly named Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison who is a shareholder and close friend of Chief Executive Elon Musk, to its board to provide the independent oversight demanded by U.S. regulators.
The move is meant to usher Tesla past months of turbulence following Musk’s Aug. 7 tweet that he was considering taking the company private and had secured funding.
The fallout, which included the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission subsequently filing fraud charges against Musk for what it said were his “false and misleading” tweets, led some investors to call for stronger board oversight of Musk.
The inclusion of Ellison puts one of the world’s richest people with experience building a startup into a successful company on Tesla’s board. He served as a director at Apple at a critical time for that company – in the five years after Steve Jobs returned to the helm of the then struggling computer maker in 1997.
Joining Ellison on the boar was Walgreens Boots Alliance’s global head of human resources, Kathleen Wilson-Thompson.
Charles Elson, director of the corporate governance center at the University of Delaware, questioned adding a friend of Musk’s and another director with no experience at an industrial company like Tesla.
“Why would you put a friend (on the board) if the idea of the two independent directors were to be objective,” Elson said. “Investors who were hoping for two newly objective directors who could stand up to Mr. Musk would be rather disappointed by the choice.”
Under a court-approved agreement with the SEC, Musk agreed to pay a $20 million fine and step aside as Tesla’s chairman for three years to settle charges that could have forced his exit. Tesla also agreed to name the independent directors and a board committee to control Musk’s communications.