Tesla names Larry Ellison, Walgreens executive to board

Tesla names Larry Ellison, Walgreens executive to board

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc on Friday named two independent board directors as part of a September deal with federal regulators to move past the turbulence that followed Chief Executive Elon Musk’s tweet about taking the electric carmaker private.

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla Model 3 car is displayed during a media preview at the Auto China 2018 motor show in Beijing, China April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

The company said Oracle Corp co-founder Larry Ellison and Walgreens Boots Alliance’s global head of human resources, Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, joined the board, effective Dec. 27.

Ellison, who calls himself a close friend of Musk, bought 3 million shares of Tesla earlier this year.

“In Larry and Kathleen, we have added a preeminent entrepreneur and a human resources leader, both of whom have a passion for sustainable energy,” Tesla said.

Under an agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 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 pay a $20 million fine.

Tesla further consented to the appointment of an independent chairman, two independent directors and a board committee to control Musk’s communications.

A U.S. judge in October approved the deal, which resulted from tweets by Musk on Aug. 7 that he was considering taking the company private and had secured funding. The SEC subsequently filed fraud charges against him, citing what it said were his “false and misleading” tweets.

In November, Tesla named director Robyn Denholm as board chair, fulfilling one of the demands. She joined Tesla as an independent director in 2014 and agreed to step down from her job as finance chief of Australian telecoms firm Telstra Corp Ltd.

The company’s shares were up 4.4 percent at $330 in early trading on Friday.

Tesla said it conducted a “thorough, expansive” search process for the directors, calling Ellison a “preeminent entrepreneur” and Wilson-Thompson “a human resources leader” and said both had a passion for sustainable energy.

The larger-than-life Ellison, who through a spokeswoman declined to comment, is known for his combative personality. Ellison previously disclosed his stake in Tesla and defended Musk.

“I’m very close friends with Elon Musk, and I’m a big investor in Tesla,” Ellison said on a Oct. 26 conference call with analysts.

“This guy is landing rockets,” Ellison added about Musk, referring to his leadership of SpaceX. “He’s landing rockets on robot drone rafts in the ocean, and you’re saying he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Well, who else is landing a rocket?”

In addition, Ellison has ties to Denholm, who spent 11 years as a senior vice president at Sun Microsystems, a unit of Oracle.

Wilson-Thompson, who could not be immediately reached for comment, spent 17 years at Kellogg Co before joining Walgreens, and serves on the boards of two U.S.-based manufacturing companies.

Oracle’s Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison speaks during his keynote address at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, California September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Musk has gained fans for his bold approach to business and technology, using his almost 24 million Twitter followers to promote Tesla, SpaceX and tunnel venture Boring Co.

But the August claim that he had the funding to take Tesla private, and a subsequent U-turn, stunned Wall Street and came as Musk was filmed briefly smoking marijuana during a live Web show and when he called a British diver in the Thai cave rescue a “pedo.”

Tesla’s market cap exceeds that of traditional, established U.S. automakers that make millions of vehicles and billions of dollars in profits annually, and the company has garnered legions of fans despite repeated production issues.

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Steve Orlofsky

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