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Tesla announces 2 new independent board members–one is Elon Musk’s “close friend”

Tesla announces 2 new independent board members–one is Elon Musk’s “close friend”
Larry Ellison [Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

Tesla today announced two new people to sit as independent members of its board: Larry Ellison and Kathleen Wilson-Thompson. Both are being brought on due to a settlement the company reached with the SEC after founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted some unwise statements that resulted in investor bafflement (to say the least). Musk also agreed to step down as chairman of the board.

Both of the new members are intended to present perspectives that are external to both Musk and the company. Wilson-Thompson runs Walgreens’ global human resources department, and Ellison is the cofounder and executive chairman of Oracle. In a written statement, Tesla’s board said, “In Larry and Kathleen, we have added a preeminent entrepreneur and a human resources leader, both of whom have a passion for sustainable energy.”

A human resources perspective like Wilson-Thompson’s is much needed. The company has been mired in allegations surrounding how it treats its employees. They include: allegedly providing unsafe working conditions, reportedly fostering a hostile environment for employees of color, and responding with hostility to unionization attempts. Bringing in a human resources veteran could hopefully pave the way for at least some of these problems to be better dealt with.

Ellison’s presence, however, may raise a few eyebrows. A few months ago, he said, “I am not sure people know I am very close friends to Elon Musk and I am a very big investor in Tesla.” In fact, the Oracle founder said that Tesla is his second largest investment. Ellison was also an early investor in Theranos–and notably quiet during the company’s fall from grace. If Tesla’s board is looking for someone to challenge a temperamental CEO who may be doing overall damage to a company, it’s unclear if Ellison is up for the job.

The news, however, still gave investors some holiday cheer. Currently the stock is up by nearly 3% Friday in early trading.

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