Car Industry

Tesla close to finding a new board chair in James Murdoch, report says

The 45-year-old media magnate (and son of Rupert Murdoch) is currently a nonexecutive member of Tesla's board.

Media mogul James Murdoch is reportedly the frontrunner in the race to find Tesla an independent chairperson for its board of directors.
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Tesla is on the hunt for a new chairperson after CEO Elon Musk reached an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that mandated he step down from the position. The current favorite, according to a report on Wednesday by the Financial Times, is James Murdoch, chief executive of 21st Century Fox and a current member of the Tesla board.

The challenge with finding a replacement chairperson for Tesla's board of directors is that the SEC insists that the chair be independent and not beholden to Musk. Tesla's board has been criticized for lacking independence, and while Murdoch has frequently sided with Musk in matters before the board, he remains financially independent in a way that the other major candidate for the job, Antonio Gracias, isn't.

Gracias and his venture capital firm Valor Equity Partners were early investors in Tesla, though it sold its interest when Tesla had its IPO. Gracias is also a stakeholder in Musk's other major venture SpaceX, which makes his independence less than clear.

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. His post-Fox plans reportedly include starting a technology investment fund. That would seemingly make an appointment to the chairperson's seat at Tesla all the more attractive to the 45-year-old media mogul.

The SEC's 45-day deadline will lapse in the middle of November, but the regulatory body has stated that it's willing to extend that under certain circumstances if Musk files a request to do so.

Tesla didn't respond to requests for comment, but Musk disputed the report's accuracy in a tweet​ Wednesday afternoon, saying simply: "This is incorrect."

Originally published at 1:18 p.m. PT
Updated at 4:40 p.m. PT with Elon Musk's tweet.