By Matt Egan | CNN
Tesla’s board of directors should suspend Elon Musk for endorsing antisemitic views on social media, according to an investor in the electric vehicle company and a leading management expert.
Jerry Braakman, president of First American Trust, wants Tesla’s board to send a clear message that Musk went too far last week by agreeing with an antisemitic post on X (formerly known as Twitter) that claims Jewish communities push “hatred against Whites.”
“I believe in free speech, but there’s no excuse for spreading hatred by a CEO of a public company,” Braakman said in a statement.
On Friday, Disney, NBCUniversal, CNN owner Warner Bros. Discovery and other major brands halted advertising on X, which is owned by Musk. The companies did not specifically say it was related to Musk’s post, but some of their advertisements were found to be placed near antisemitic posts on X, according to a report by Media Matters.
Tesla’s board should put Musk on leave for 30 to 60 days and require him to attend empathy training and/or therapy, Braakman argued.
“Neither his wealth nor his technical and business prowess excuse his statements. It seems it has only amplified the demons he carries. And it screams that he needs help,” Braakman said.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, dean for leadership studies at the Yale School of Management, agrees that Tesla’s board should hold Musk responsible.
“The board has a responsibility to act. He should not be able to use the title of chief executive officer. That should be suspended right away,” Sonnenfeld told CNN on Monday.
The Yale professor said if Musk served as chief technology officer instead of CEO, the share price impact should not be meaningful.
Neither Tesla nor the company’s chair, Robyn Denholm, responded to requests for comment.
Who is on the Tesla board?
Of course, Musk holds enormous sway over Tesla, which he co-founded.
Not only is Musk viewed as the single most important person at Tesla, but he sits on the board of directors and is the largest individual shareholder. Musk held 411 million shares as of the end of March, amounting to about a 13% stake valued today at approximately $96 billion.
By contrast, Santa Ana, Calif.-based First American owns a relatively tiny stake of 16,000 shares as of the end of September.
Tesla board is led by Denholm and includes James Murdoch, venture capitalist Ira Ehrenpreis, Musk’s younger brother Kimbal and Musk himself.
“Only his board can hold him accountable. And he has a lot of friends on it,” Braakman said.
‘No confidence’ in the board
Nell Minow, a Tesla shareholder and vice chair of ValueEdge Advisors, which advises institutional investors on corporate governance matters, said Tesla’s board should hire a firm to evaluate the impact on the car company’s brand from Musk’s “terrible behavior.”
“I had been thinking about buying a Tesla but that’s off the table now. I just don’t want to support him,” Minow told CNN.
Minow said she has “no confidence whatsoever” in the willingness of Tesla’s board to provide meaningful oversight over Musk.
“The board has plenty of reason to replace him as CEO. But do they have the ability to do it? Do they have the courage to do it? The answer is no,” Minow told CNN. “I am as concerned, as a Jewish person, with his instability as I am with his antisemitism.”
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Another shareholder, Ross Gerber, CEO and president of Gerber Kawasaki, told CNBC late last week that Musk’s behavior is “absolutely outrageous” and is “destroying the brand.”
“I’ve just never had this with any company I’ve ever invested in, ever in my life,” Gerber said.
Some prominent business leaders are standing by Musk.
Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who has been critical of how Harvard and other universities have handled antisemitism on campus, said over the weekend that Musk is “not an antisemite.”
“It is remarkable how quickly the world stands ready to attack Musk for his shoot from the hip commentary,” Ackman said in a post on X. “Musk is not perfect, but the world is a vastly better place because of him.”