SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 16 (Reuters) – James Murdoch, a Tesla Inc ( TSLA.O ) executive, testified in court on Wednesday that Chief Executive Elon Musk has in recent months identified someone as a potential successor to lead the electric car maker.
Murdoch, who did not name the potential successor, testified in a lawsuit over Musk̵[ads1]7;s 2018 Tesla pay package.
When a plaintiff’s lawyer asked him to confirm that Musk has never identified anyone as a potential successor CEO, Murdoch said, “Indeed he has,” adding that it happened in the “recent months.”
Some Tesla investors worry whether Musk can focus sufficiently on his role as chief executive of the world’s most valuable carmaker now that he has run Twitter Inc after a long-running acquisition that he at one point tried to shelve. Murdoch testified that Musk has had some Tesla engineers work at Twitter, a situation the board is monitoring.
Murdoch’s testimony did not make clear the specifics of the conversation about the successor. Antonio Gracias, a longtime friend of Musk who was also a Tesla board member from 2007 to 2021, testified that there were talks to find an “administrative CEO” who oversees sales, finance and human resources “so that Musk can focus his time as chief product officer which is his most important function.” But he added that they could not find one, without elaborating on the timing of the discussions.
Musk, who is the CEO of Twitter and the rocket company Space X, said among other things: “I honestly don’t want to be the CEO of any company.”
Musk testified that he expected to reduce his time at Twitter and eventually find a new leader to run the social media company.
On Monday, Musk said he had been working through the night at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco and would continue to “work and sleep here” until the social media platform – which he recently bought for $44 billion – was fixed.
“AS LONG AS I CAN BE USEFUL”
“It’s worth noting that there is a light-year gap between identifying someone and someone taking the job,” Tesla investor Gene Muster tweeted after the news.
At Tesla’s shareholder meeting in August, Musk was asked about the succession plan and replied, “I intend to stay with Tesla as long as I can be useful.”
At the time, Musk also said, “We have a very talented team here. So I think Tesla would continue to do very well even if I were kidnapped by aliens or maybe went back to my home planet.”
Murdoch testified that Tesla’s audit committee is monitoring the Twitter situation, and said the committee had discussions about having some Tesla engineers work on Twitter.
“Most of the work I understand is done. It was a short-term deployment,” he said, adding that the work has been “paid for.”
“The audit committee has said that if it takes away from the Tesla work, that’s something we also have to be very aware of, and that we don’t want it to be like that.”
He also said Musk asked some team managers to see if they were people interested in helping Twitter.
Musk acknowledged in his testimony that some Tesla engineers helped evaluate Twitter’s engineering team, but he said it was on a “voluntary basis” and done “after hours.”
Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin, Paresh Dave and Tom Hals; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Deepa Babington and David Gregorio
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