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By Tim Higgins
Tesla Inc., which has faced criticism from its investors about a lack of independent directors, named 21st Century Fox Inc. Chief Executive James Murdoch and Ebony Media CEO Linda Johnson Rice to its board.
The appointments announced Monday expands Tesla's board to nine people, including the Silicon Valley auto maker's CEO, Elon Musk.
In April, Mr. Musk suggested Tesla would appoint two additional directors when he responded on Twitter to a group of five investors, including the California State Teachers' Retirement System and CtW Investment Group, that were calling for improved corporate governance. Among the changes, the investors requested Tesla recruit two new directors that don't have prior personal or professional ties with Mr. Musk.
Mr. Murdoch is the son of Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of Fox and News Corp, publisher of The Wall Street Journal. James Murdoch, who also serves on the board of News Corp and is the chairman of Sky PLC, replaced his father as CEO of Fox in 2015.
Ms. Rice, who had been chairman emeritus of Ebony Media Holdings, returned to run the holding company that includes Ebony magazine earlier this year after selling the family-owned Johnson Publishing last year. She has been active on other boards, including as a director for Omnicom Group Inc. since 2000 and GrubHub Inc. She becomes Tesla's second female director.
Besides Mr. Musk, who is chairman, Tesla's board includes his brother; a former top executive for SolarCity Corp., where Mr. Musk has served as chairman; two longtime venture-capital investors in Tesla; a private-equity investor and a telecommunications executive.
Mr. Musk is under intense scrutiny as he races to ramp up production of the Model 3, a new $35,000 sedan that he expects will fuel massive sales growth next year. He has projected Tesla will make a total of 500,000 vehicles in 2018, up from about 84,000 last year.
Enthusiasm for the Model 3 has sent shares soaring more than 50% this year, though the stock has fallen in the past few weeks -- including 2.5% on Monday -- following disappointing second-quarter sales figures. On Saturday, Mr. Musk told a group of U.S. governors that he believed the company's market value was greater than Tesla deserved.
On Monday, Mr. Musk clarified his comments on Saturday, tweeting: "Tesla stock is obviously high based on past & present, but low if you believe in Tesla's future. Place bets accordingly."
He also on Monday sought to put to rest news that a crash in Minnesota involving Tesla's semiautonomous Autopilot system. The driver of the 2016 Tesla car, which rolled over in a marsh, slightly injuring the four passengers, originally told police he engaged the car's semiautonomous system and the vehicle then suddenly accelerated. However, Mr. Musk posted an email he says is from the driver stating he believed he had disengaged Autopilot at the time of the crash. The driver couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Write to Tim Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 17, 2017 17:14 ET (21:14 GMT)
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