“In conducting a widespread search over the last few months, we sought to add independent directors with skills that would complement the current board’s experience. 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’s existing directors said in a statement.
Tesla’s board has historically been tightly linked to its CEO and includes, among others, his brother Kimbal Musk. The stipulation in the SEC settlement was intended to introduce more oversight of the CEO, who has dragged the company’s stock lower with his unchecked use of social media and other antics.
Existing board member Robyn Denholm was named chair in November. Denholm was seen as an experienced though predictable pick at the time, but investors and analysts had been hoping for a truly independent, outside chairperson to fully check Musk.
The two new board members are supposed to be independents, as well, though Ellison’s personal ties to Musk leave some room for concern.
A Tesla spokesperson downplayed Ellison and Musk’s personal relationship, saying the two had only socialized a handful of times and always in a group setting. The spokesperson said Musk and Ellison had not spoken for about a year leading up to Ellison’s appointment to the board.
Meanwhile, longstanding Tesla board member and venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson has been “on leave” from the board for over a year, after reports of his sexual misconduct. Those reports led to his being ousted from the eponymous venture firm he founded, DFJ, which backed both Tesla and Musk’s other company, SpaceX.
Besides appointing new board members, Tesla is supposed to form a committee to oversee other terms of the SEC settlement, and institute controls over both the company’s and Musk’s statements about Tesla on Twitter and elsewhere.
Ellison and Wilson-Thompson began serving on the board effective Thursday, Tesla said.
Correction: Larry Ellison and Kathleen Wilson-Thompson began serving on Tesla’s board effective Dec. 27, 2018. A previous version of this story misstated when the appointments would be finalized.