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James Murdoch in line to replace Musk as Tesla chairman (reuters.com)
76 points by jumelles 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments

From the article: The son of Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch, he joined Tesla’s board in July 2017 after years of work with media companies. He has no experience in manufacturing and has never led a company that makes cars or electric vehicles.

What exactly does this guy bring to the table for Tesla? Money? Connections?

James Murdoch has been on the board for a while and is very good friends with Elon Musk. So this brings a sympathetic chairman who isn't going to crack down on Musk's erratic behaviour.

This goes completely against the intent of the SEC agreement and I would not expect this to be the end of it.

> What exactly does this guy bring to the table for Tesla? Money? Connections?

Obviously his prior experience where he "repeatedly fell short of the conduct to be expected of as a chief executive and chairman" [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Murdoch#Phone_hacking_sc...

I assume "will do whatever Elon says" was the top requirement.

To be fair he's used to doing that from his father.

Wow. Elon to be replaced by this guy?


If I were a shareholder, I'd be screaming out to keep hold of Elon rather than Mr Murdoch.

In short:

> On 7 July 2011, James Murdoch announced the closure of the British tabloid newspaper the News of the World in the wake of a phone hacking scandal.[23]

Although everyone has the right to make mistakes, this was the man who closed a 168yr old newspaper based on illegal activities that seemed rife in the company.

[23] https://www.theguardian.com/media/blog/2011/jul/07/news-of-t...

Based on what Mr Musk has already gone through, I don't think Mr Murdoch is what Tesla needs.

musk will still be the president and ceo , murdoch will be the chairman of the board.

That's not how boards generally work. They're there for corporate governance and, in this case, to make sure the company is hiring the right people experienced in manufacturing and EVs...

As an example, here is the board of directors for General Motors:


Not exactly a lot of car building experience.

Looking at the GM board of directors, I see:

- Former GM officials,

- Ex-managers of defense companies. They build machines too, right.

- Ex-joint chiefs of staff and business school head. They know management.

- Insurance and such. GM has a large workforce and managing that a good portion of activity.

Newscorp is a large organization too, but it seems more different from Tesla than the US Army, Cummins or even an insurance company is different than GM. So on it's face, it seems like the board knows something about manufacturing and managing large organizations. With Jame Murdock, it seems likes you could say "know something about spin", which might not be comforting.

IMO it's all about the connections. Defense people are probably very well connected in Washington.

The Murdochs are scum, but hey, if you're a world leader and Rupert Murdoch calls, you pick up the phone. Tony Blair only became PM because he sucked up to Murdoch to gain his papers' endorsement.

That's not a fair interpretation. Let's actually break it down...

- Current CEO of GM

- Former Lockheed-associated Director was VP in charge of Information Systems. Assuming that's deliverable product and not internal IT (which she also ran), not exactly making the planes

- The former CEO of a drug manufacturer

- The former CEO of Harvard Management Company (the endowment)

- Retired Chairman of Joint Chiefs

- Retired CEO of a big oil company

- The Chairman of HP

- Former CFO of Wal-Mart

- Former CEO of Cummins (MOST adjacent business to GM vis engine mfg)

- Former Dean of Ivey Business School, The University of Western Ontario

- The CEO of eBay

So, sure, we can reach and say that some of the individuals have tangential industry experience or we can say that they are on the board because they have high degrees of personal/economic success, presumably large rolodexes, and various levels of experience at the top of large organizations.

I'm not taking a position on James Murdoch at all here, just pointing out that board members are not often subject matter experts of what a company produces so much as generally successful and influential people with various levels of business and leadership experience.

>He has no experience in manufacturing and has never led a company that makes cars or electric vehicles.

Did Elon have either before founding Tesla?

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. The other option that this is a popularity contest and the position is mostly for forward facing purposes.

I'm going to guess that Elon will continue to micromanage from the sidelines but if this is a coup it definitely sets the stage for some drama.

Should bring positive Tesla coverage in WSJ at least. WSJ has been hammering away at Tesla for the last 10 years.

Weren't the same mostly applying to Musk? SpaceX certainly counts more for manufacturing, but in case of cars it's quite a different thing I would imagine.

I don't have horses in this race.

>What exactly does this guy bring to the table for Tesla? Money? Connections?

Already an insider within the company. You think anyone actually wants to deal with Musk?

Knowledge of how to lead.

But lead where? Without domain knowledge..?

Murdoch and his family are poisonous, this won't help Tesla in the long run but might help.then with the SEC in the short run.

They're also brilliant businessmen who have built the most successful news empire in America

The father might fit that description, but none of the second generation who've taken roles in the family business have distinguished themselves.

Ya I honestly have no idea of what every individual in their family has achieved but I guess James is up to bat for Tesla, I hope he can make some positive reforms in the work culture as well as keep working to increase the market share of electric cars

Maybe the father, the sons are not better than leeches.


Sorry, we live in a world where News Corp has been at the epicenter of cultivating "Merchants of Doubt"[1] when it comes to anthropogenic climate change. Anyone tied up in that universe deserves skepticism if not outright rejection for the unbelievable damage they have wielded on society's ability to address climate change. The cost to society is enormous, and their grandchildren and grandchildren's children will pay.

Even if James Murdoch is entirely amoral and more of an abacus-bean-shifter (i.e., money guy), we must recognize that the reason why an electric car company like Tesla even exists is because of headstrong founders and employees who demanded a sustainable form of transport that was not just excellent among electric cars, but one of the greatest cars.

In a way, money guys getting into Tesla is validation of the mainstream viability of sustainable transport, but we are still in a fragile state where all kinds of forces are aligning themselves against Tesla. We still need people ideologically committed to a rapid sustainable transition.


His performance at the Leveson inquiry in the UK a few years ago confirmed him to be utter slime. Terrible news for Tesla if you value truth and integrity, and doesn’t do much to dispell the valuation-pyramid-scheme, spin-ever-grander-stories criticism that is often levelled at them.

Murdoch was already on Tesla's board of directors. This is simply a promotion.

From another commenter.

> threeseed

> James Murdoch has been on the board for a while and is very good friends with Elon Musk. So this brings a sympathetic chairman who isn't going to crack down on Musk's erratic behaviour.

It seems a bit late to be concerned about this guy wielding influence at Tesla.

Yes, I just saw this. I hope it's true.

I remember seeing an interview about 5 years ago that featured both Elon Musk and Bob Lutz, vice chairman of GM. In the interview, Musk was incredibly deferential to Lutz and talked about his respect for Lutz and considered him a friend. They were very cordial. Nevertheless, Lutz has been on the record for many, many years as lambasting Tesla, it ambitious and sustainable aims, and its business model.

So hopefully it's a real friend and not a keep-your-enemies-closer friend. Or maybe either is fine.

Boxers can admire each other and still bash each other's brains out. Lutz lambasts Tesla because he's on the other side of the ring; Murdoch isn't.

I should add: Lutz is a climate change denier. [1] He has spent a lot of energy sowing skepticism towards the IPCC and anthropogenic climate change, calling it a "crock of shit." His antagonism towards Tesla goes deeper than just that of business competitors.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Klgp_qDiRhQ

Almost every board has some sympathetic board members. Very different story for that person to be chairman.

Especially when the intent of the SEC agreement was that there was to be objective oversight of Musk.

Are electric cars genuinely seen as part of the solution to climate change? Surely there is no place for cars in our utopian green future, they are terribly inefficient means of transportation and completely anti-social and anti-urban. The future is in advanced metro systems, high speed rail, cycling etc. In this future, cars would become decided niche.

I had never thought of Tesla being one of the 'good guys', especially with Musk's backward - even reactionary - views on public transport.[1] It hadn't occurred to me that this might not be mainstream thought.


The United States, Canada and others are too sprawling and sparse for that. Cars are going to be a fact of life for a very long time yet.

As far as helping to solve climate change, cars are part of it, but I wish people paid much more attention to the larger contributor: Agriculture.

I often get the feeling that people think changing cars to electric will solve the problem. It's important and helps, but it's just one piece of the pie. Not the biggest piece of it either.

Europe is also large, and there is much better public transportation. If the US really wanted to replace cars, the US could replace cars. The problem is we equate cars with 'freedom', so we are doomed to live forever in the past until that changes (or we destroy ourselves)

It's not just 'freedom'. It's a practical matter given the vast distances between even individual houses in certain parts of the US. Europe, as a whole, is large, but European nations individually are not very big in relation to a lot of US states. People should absolutely be able to travel within their countries however best suits them.

> but European nations individually are not very big in relation to a lot of US states

Um, those countries are interconnected, so yes, it's way easier to travel vast distances in Europe through multiple countries in the US than it is to travel around without a car in nearly all of the states in the US. For example, want to get across Texas without wasting away in a series of greyhound bus stations? Good luck.

You're proving my point that it's not practical to get around a lot of the US without cars because it's just so much bigger. Most travel is within your own country and blanketing the sparsely populated US with non-car alternatives is just not practical.

For what it is worth, according to Eurostat, cars are pretty important over there, too.

"Three quarters of trips by EU residents in 2016 were within their own country."


"Passenger car was by far the most important mode for passenger transport in all Member States."

"Passenger cars accounted for 83.1 % of inland passenger transport in the EU-28 in 2015, with motor coaches, buses and trolley buses (9.2 %) and passenger trains (7.7 %) both accounting for less than a tenth of all traffic (measured by the number of inland passenger-kilometres (pkm) travelled by each mode)"


I guess they like freedom over there, too.

> You're proving my point that it's not practical to get around a lot of the US without cars because it's just so much bigger.

No, my point is that if a group of countries can figure out how to improve transportation across themselves for similar distances, then why can't even individual states figure it out? They could, if they wanted to, but "freedom to drive" and other excuses.

You don't even need to "blanket" the country in tracks, for example. Connecting all major US cities would be a HUGE improvement over what exists today.

I'm not at all arguing that cars are unimportant, it's just that here in the US it is the only one of two choices for transportation (for almost all of the US) that we have given ourselves for moving between cities. The other option is air travel, which is expensive in terms of money and rights/privacy.

All that for 7.7% of passenger traffic seems a bit wasteful given the cost of construction in the modern US. The boondoggle that is the California "High Speed" Rail multiplied by the lower 48 states a few times over does not at all seem worth it versus other infrastructure improvements that need to be made.

1) it doesn't have to be a boondoggle, but it generally is because of US citizens' love of cars

2) 7.7% is a nontrivial number, and I expect it to increase if transportation became more accessible

Europe also has ~3x the population density of the US, higher still if you don’t include some of the sparsely populated Eastern European States.

While I can’t profess any expertise on this topic, it strikes me as a possibly reasonable hypothesis that the sheer emptiness of much of the central US could have some kind of bearing on trying to make sustainable continent-wide public transport more difficult than in Europe.

Colorado for example, roughly the same size as the entire U.K., has around 50 people per square km. The U.K. has over 300. Even France, regarded in Europe as a largely rural State beyond a few large cities, is over 100.

There is no getting rid of cars for the foreseeable future, making them electric is the obvious next step for reducing their environmental impact

Unfortunately at the cost of a lot of human suffering in countries where coltan[1] is mined.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coltan

If we can't get rid of cars I'm really not sure there is a future.

Seems a bit hyperbolic. Even if mass transit was ascendant/dominant, you'd still have "last mile" issues where only a car would suffice.

Wishing for cars to go away is as pie-in-the-sky as wishing POTS or Email would disappear. Simply not going to happen - it's too ubiquitous.

In most of the country, per passenger, per person transported a mile, cars are more efficient than public transportation. Electric cars take less than half the energy per mile driven. So they definitely have a role.

The reason why is that a bus has to run whether or not it has passengers on it. A lot of empty buses without passengers are running around all day and night in most metro areas.

So yes, public transit makes a lot of sense where it makes sense. But it only makes sense within a relatively small number of very dense cities.

Can you please cite your sources.

According to this article as long as you have about 11 people on a bus its more efficient. https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2012/11/can-we-please...

In my experience, in most US cities where I've taken the bus, having even 11 people on the bus is not that common, especially later at night. Probably Uber Pool would more efficient than the vast majority of night buses, at least, in the US, and self-driving cars using a similar system even more efficient.

Yes, they are. Even if they get their energy from fossil fuels for now, it's a whole lot easier to replace a few hundred power plants than it is to replace millions of ICEs and all the associated sunk cost that they represent.

It's also just generally easier to make electricity from renewable sources than to directly power cars with them.

Climate change / fear / drama in general, all sell news papers for Murdoch. I'm sure they'll capitalize on this sooner or later, it's a shame for now it seems the focus has been on getting people elected that seem hell bent on making the situation worse. Or maybe that's just part of the plan all along?

I mean I think it makes the situation better for the various cronies in control of the administration. A guy focused on “deals” is a godsend for moneyed interests who just want to get their way.

I don't know his exact political leanings but he looks to be more liberal than his father. His wife for instance works for the Clinton Climate Initiative.

Wow, actually just looked at her Twitter feed, it's pretty hardcore anti-Republican. Their Thanksgivings must be interesting.

Fox could be pushing an anti-AGW agenda for numerous reasons, not the least of which is in response to the affinities of their viewer base. They're a media company, so their job is to pander to some group of viewers to get ratings. The tail could be wagging the dog. Media is entertainment to sell ads and nothing more.

Oh I see how this works. Pay the boy some big bucks and the bad news goes away?

It's the same shit-show in the UK. The same 20 Chairmen who know how to grease-the-wheels cycle around the big co's, milking fat-cat pay for 4 days a month.

More coverage from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/oct/10/james-mur...

This doesn't seem to be set in stone; rather, Murdoch is the lead candidate. There has to be a replacement for Musk by mid-November.

Whoever does handles PR/brand image for Tesla must have stomach ulcers at this point. The amount of ire (whether potential or real) drawn in the last ~1 year is insane:

- Elon makes false accusations

- Elon says dumb thing about going private

- Elon smokes weed on a podcast (this is a +/don't care for me but I imagine not for Tesla's entire audience)

- Elon lets slip that the Saudis are where the money might have come from

- James Murdoch (that Murdoch, which generally people don't know or hate) might replace Musk on the board of Tesla

- Near constant questioning of company finances and viability

Before this year, Tesla was basically an awesome, expensive, trendy, and progressive car company that by and large people (those who can afford one, those who build them, those who love the planet, those who like high performance cars) loved --

1. You seem to confuse false and unsubstantiated 4. "lets slip that the Saudis are where the money might have come from" That's honest. Perhaps the problem is that the Saudi might take a share? If so, why is that a problem other than Western capitalists chose not to finance such operation instead? If the Saudi are OK to pay the best price to lead the transition to EV, why refuse? If the problem is with the communication of the info, then why do we prefer to be kept in the dark and not know how sausage is made? 5. Elon said that it is incorrect (cf direct reply to FT). I'm curious: who would you recommend? The guy is a clear supported of the transition to sustainable energy, while being part of a family known to lead the fight against it. He's probably well armed for the job, then. 6. Near constant questioning of company finances and viability: Most is just FUD from short-sellers, which the media repeat because its sensationalism makes people click.

We'll know soon enough with Q3's results. In the meantime, Model 3 are selling like hot cakes.

Found a primary source on Tesla board about news of this type. 20% stake holder, therefore has huge influence on decision.


Tesla and Elon Musk propaganda campaigns are so successful on Hacker News that I'm getting close to just being done with the site entirely.

Feel free to go read your precious article again by the way. It has been edited to reflect the fact that actual people with strong control over this decision have said that it is not as the article originally implied.

Hacker News? Every correction had zero upvotes. But now its the next day. This story is no longer on the front page. Anchoring effects are taking hold. Will Hacker News even ever know there was a correction to the article?

Wonder how long until Fox News does a 180 on global warming and starts talking about the importance of electric vehicles?

James lost the contest for control of Fox to his older brother Lachlan, and the latter's politics are reportedly close to their father's. In other words, expect Fox to stay the ideological course.

Or Tesla's start streaming hateful propaganda

Wouldn't that be wonderful? :-)

Their religion is money

Or how long until Tesla starts making gasoline powered cars?

Maybe he wouldn't be such a bad pick after all, hmmm...

About until electric car companies become incumbent, rent-seeking, humanity-sucking corporations that thrive off propaganda, subsidies, and bribes to stay afloat. Then they will be on board.

or Tesla getting an ICE?

or ICE getting a fleet of Tesla

Nothing could make me want this company to fail more than knowing the Murdoch’s are involved.

The story is not correct.

A 20% stake holder and board member, who unlike the quoted article is not anonymous, has publicly refuted the misinformation currently being treated as true on Hacker News with regard to claims about James Murdoch.


Elon has tweeted that "this is incorrect".

Nepotism is going to save Tesla! Right?

If I were an independent investor, I'd be pulling my money out after this news.

How is this nepotism?

To an outsider like me it would look like a position awarded due to being a son of a powerful/rich father with relevant experience awarded the same way in another corporation (how likely is to become a chief executive in young age on own merit?). That would qualify it as a nepotism (father as investor to son); if Elon is a friend, then also cronyism. I have no hope in companies ran in such fashion; they can't survive Darwinian environment, bad decisions would accumulate in time, leading to larger and larger monetary loss, prompting fund withdrawal to cut the losses at some point.

Here's the son if someone else! /s

James Murdoch is good friends of Elon Musk.

So it is technically nepotism.

Their friendship would make it cronyism, not nepotism.


"the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs."


Cronyism is a subtype of nepotism.

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