JAMES Murdoch, the son of Australian-born global media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has been appointed to the board of Tesla.
The Palo Alto-based electric carmaker announced this morning that Murdoch, the current chief executive of 21st Century Fox, was one of two new board appointments made to Tesla’s executive line-up.
Tesla announced earlier this year that it was on the hunt for more independent members to join its board of management after attracting criticism that too many of the current board members had business ties to company founder and chief executive Elon Musk.
According to Tesla, there were no payments to James Murdoch that it had to disclose to the market as part of the US’s strict business laws. However, in documents filed to the US Securities and Investments Commission detailing the appointment it said Murdoch would be able to buy almost 17,000 Tesla shares after sitting on the board for a year, a deal that at current market values would be worth about $US5.3 million ($A6.8 million).
Significantly, Tesla has announced it will build the world’s largest lithium ion battery in South Australia – the state that helped kick-start Rupert Murdoch’s stellar rise in global media – in a deal worth $550 million. Musk has promised that if the battery can’t be commissioned within 100 days of the contract being signed, it will be delivered for free.
The carmaker is about to start production of the Model 3, a mid-size sedan that the company hopes will be an important volume model that will offset the high-cost Model S large car and Model X people-mover. Telsa will make its first Model 3 deliveries to about customers on July 28.
It’s expected to retail from around $65,000 in Australia – about half the price of the entry-level Model S 75 – with premium D-segment models such as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series in its sights.
Tesla revealed earlier this month it had delivered more than 22,000 vehicles in the second quarter of this year, bringing its tally of deliveries for the first half of the year to about 47,100.
In Australia, Tesla is believed to be selling at the rate of around 1000 cars a year, largely on the back of the introduction of the Model X early this year.
James Murdoch is believed to be slowly taking over day-to-day management of parts of the News Ltd empire from his 86-year-old father, who still sits at the head of the boardroom table as executive chairman.