Tesla announced two new additions to its board on Friday: Kellogg alum Kathleen Wilson-Thompson and Oracle co-founder and CTO Larry Ellison, who has described himself as a close pal of Elon Musk.
The two join the board as part of the settlement Tesla and Musk reached with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over Musk’s bananas “420” tweet about taking Tesla private. The settlement required, among other things, that the electric car company bring on two new independent directors.
“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,” Tesla’s Board of Directors said in a statement. “In Larry and Kathleen, we have added a preeminent entrepreneur and a human resources leader, both of whom have a passion for sustainable energy.”
According to CNBC, Ellison owns 3 million shares of the company’s stock. He has described his relationship with Musk as “very close friends” and has defended the Tesla CEO amid ongoing drama primarily of Musk’s own making by way of his being extremely online. But according to CNBC, the company is now attempting to downplay the connection, per the SEC’s stipulation of an “independent” director:
A Tesla spokesperson downplayed Ellison and Musk’s personal relationship, saying the two had only socialised 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.
Both Musk and Tesla were fined $US20 ($28) million as part of the company’s settlement with the SEC, and Musk agreed to step down as chairman of the company for at least three years. In addition, the SEC tasked Tesla with overseeing Musk’s tweets and other communications—something Musk said in a recent 60 Minutes interview does not occur and which is perhaps best evidenced by the fact that he continues to tweet at all.
In early October, Musk appeared to openly mock the SEC on Twitter by referring to it as the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission.” That same month, Musk tweeted that his infamous 420 tweet was “worth it” for the likes.