Tesla adds two ‘outside’ board directors from the media world

Linda Johnson Rice and James Murdoch are joining Tesla’s board as “outside” directors.
(Chicago Tribune; 20th Century Fox)

Tesla Inc.’s board is gaining two “outside” directors from the media world, Elon Musk said Monday: James Murdoch and Linda Johnson Rice.

The two additions are not connected to the auto or energy industries, but they are A-players on the Los Angeles social circuit with deep experience in media.

Murdoch, 44, is chief executive of 21st Century Fox and the son of Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who is founder and chief executive of Fox parent News Corp.

Johnson Rice, 59, is chairwoman of Johnson Publishing Co., best known for Ebony and Jet magazines and for its hair-care and cosmetics business. The Chicago company announced in May that all of its editorial operations would move to Los Angeles.


Musk, Tesla’s chairman and chief executive, lives in Los Angeles’ Bel Air neighborhood.

A year ago, activist shareholders pressed Tesla to add outsiders to its board. The Palo Alto company — which focuses on electric cars, battery storage and solar energy — is losing money as Musk continues his effort to turn a once-tiny start-up into a worldwide alternative-energy powerhouse. Its stock is soaring.

Although neither new board member has expertise in Tesla’s core businesses, they may be helpful as Musk adds entertainment to Tesla’s portfolio.

Better Wi-Fi and cellular connections are enabling more media consumption inside automobiles, and self-driving cars will give drivers and passengers more opportunity to consume it. Audi already has suggested that television will be an activity choice for people behind the wheel of vehicles with its new top-of-the-line self-driving system, which is supposed to be able to handle slow bumper-to-bumper traffic on its own.


According to Musk, Tesla is developing a music streaming service. Musk recently said he considers the software that suggests music on existing streaming services to be inadequate.

Twitter: @russ1mitchell