Breakingviews - Capital Calls: Elon Musk’s name games

Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk speaks at an opening ceremony for Tesla China-made Model Y program in Shanghai, China January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

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MASTER OF CLAPTRAP. There are two ways to react to Elon Musk becoming Technoking of Tesla, and his chief financial officer’s official reinvention as Master of Coin. One is to congratulate Musk for mocking corporate America’s obsession with job titles. The other is to fret that the $665 billion electric-vehicle maker’s chief executive is laughing at investors, as when he joked in 2018 about taking the company private for $420 a share.

Since both Musk and Zack Kirkhorn will keep their existing roles, the first response seems best. Besides, as far as shareholders are concerned names matter less than numbers. Tesla almost hit its 500,000-vehicle delivery target last year. And adding a whimsical title is less concerning than, say, a single person having the duties of both CEO and chair of the board, which happens in numerous big U.S. firms from JPMorgan to General Electric.

Granted, Tesla’s own independent chair, like some others with the same jobs, isn’t a big presence. Robyn Denholm, on the board since 2014, had her reappointment opposed by nearly one-fifth of voting shareholders last year. But at least those peeved by Musk’s antics have someone to complain to. (By John Foley)


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