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Being Tesla Chairman: The contenders and the challenges

With the deadline set by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for Elon Musk to step down as the Chairman of Tesla (TSLA) fast approaching, the board is frantically looking for the right successor. Beyond any doubts, the role of Tesla Chairman is an attractive one, sans one major challenge – taming Elon Musk.

The SEC agreement, which bars Musk from this position for three years, also requires the new Chairman to be an outsider.

Who will be tesla chairman
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Musk continues to own more than a fifth of the company, which he has been running as a one-man-army so far. Also, the public impression that Tesla is synonymous to Musk will make the relationship between the new Chairman and the CEO more strained.  The board would, therefore, be more interested in someone who is well aligned with the CEO.

Incidentally, none of the other Tesla board members have any exposure to the automobile industry. According to early reports, board member James Murdoch, who is also the CEO of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA) is being proposed as the new Chairman.

Tesla’s board members are mostly handpicked by Musk, and hence the choice makes sense. However, his lack of experience in the auto industry, as well as involvement in scandals at News Corp and Fox, are likely to diminish his chances.

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Another prominent name to have cropped up for the position was that of environmentalist and former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, who also serves on Apple’s (AAPL) board. However, Gore’s office immediately responded that he would not be considering such a position.

Perhaps the best prospective candidate in the fray is former Ford (F) chief Alan Mulally, who in the early 2000s, fought valiantly to save the carmaker from potential doom.  And of course, Musk knows about Mulally’s exploits. Earlier this year, he had posted on Twitter – Every other car company besides Ford and Tesla has gone bankrupt.

Others reportedly being considered for the post include Indra Nooyi, who stepped down as the CEO of PepsiCo (PEP) on October 3; Starbucks (SBUX) founder Howard Schult and Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson.

Opinion: SEC should tame Elon Musk, not thwart him!

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