Disney’s proposed acquisition of Fox, and Comcast’s counter-bid, isn’t the only corporate drama on James Murdoch’s mind these days. The 21st Century Fox CEO also has to worry about his seat on the board of electric car maker Tesla, with multiple proxy adviser groups pushing against his re-election.
Murdoch has been on Tesla’s board since July of last year, and is up for reelection at the company’s shareholder meeting next Tuesday. Resistance against his re-election started to build when CtW Investment Group, a proxy advisory group that works with union-affiliated pension funds, told investors to vote against the reelection of Murdoch and two other Tesla board members.
In its letter to investors released earlier this month, CtW argued that Murdoch didn’t have any manufacturing experience, and also noted past News Corp. scandals like the 2011 News of the World phone hacking scandal, and the more recent fallout over sexual harassment at Fox News.
It’s worth noting that CtW often acts as an activist investor group, frequently pushing for board and policy changes at companies like Amazon, Equifax, and Bank of America. In most cases, these efforts are ignored by the majority of shareholders of those companies.
However, in this case, CtW isn’t alone with its recommendation to vote out Murdoch. Investment advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services also came out against having Murdoch on Tesla’s board this month, telling investors that the chief Fox exec was too busy with his own company, and already “overboarded” with too many seats on other companies’ boards, according to a recent Reuters report. Also pushing against Murdoch’s reelection is proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis.
For its part, Tesla is backing the reelection of Murdoch. The company told stockholders in a proxy filing last month that his executive and board experience as well as his “extensive knowledge of international markets and strategies, and experience with the adoption of new technologies” made him a great candidate.
Murdoch was briefly quizzed about Tesla during his appearance at Recode’s Code conference in Southern California this week, where an attendee wanted to know his thoughts about Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s recent anti-media outbursts, which were prompted by critical stories about the company’s labor practices as well as autopilot-related accidents.
Without specifically commenting on any of those subjects, Murdoch argued that media isn’t perfect, and that it was ultimately Musk’s call how to respond to critical coverage.