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Musk identified potential successor as CEO, Tesla board member says

When it comes to litigation, it’s surprising the kinds of revelations that come out when someone is under oath. And that includes what’s next for Tesla’s (TSLA) leadership.

During testimony yesterday at trial over Elon Musk’s 2018 pay package, Tesla board member James Murdoch testified that Elon Musk has identified someone as a potential successor for his role as CEO at Tesla.

"He actually has," Murdoch said when a plaintiff's attorney asked him to confirm that Musk has never identified someone as a potential successor. Murdoch said this happened sometime in the "last few months."

Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives to testify at the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 16, 2022. - Musk is testifying in a trial over his $50 billion pay package as CEO of the electric car giant. The Tesla case is based on a complaint by shareholder Richard Tornetta, who accused Musk and the company's board of directors of failing in their duties when they authorized the pay plan. (Photo by Oliver Contreras / AFP) (Photo by OLIVER CONTRERAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives to testify at the Leonard L. Williams Justice Center in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 16, 2022. - Musk is testifying in a trial over his $50 billion pay package as CEO of the electric car giant. The Tesla case is based on a complaint by shareholder Richard Tornetta, who accused Musk and the company's board of directors of failing in their duties when they authorized the pay plan. (Photo by Oliver Contreras / AFP) (Photo by OLIVER CONTRERAS/AFP via Getty Images)

The revelation comes as Musk has been spending much time at Twitter, his recently purchased social network where he is currently the interim CEO. There has been much consternation from investors and analysts that Musk is too distracted with Twitter, and not focusing enough attention on Tesla during a critical time.

Musk, who calls himself more of an engineer and product specialist, has said in the past that he doesn't want to be the CEO of any company. For Tesla investors, that is not what they want to hear from the man many believe is the visionary who has taken Tesla to where it is today.

Musk has in the past mused about his future at Tesla, where he owns around 14% of the company. When asked about his future in management at Tesla at this year’s shareholders meeting in August, he said, "I intend to stay with Tesla as long as I can be useful."

"We do have a very talented team here. So I think Tesla would continue to do very well even if I was kidnapped by aliens or went back to my home planet maybe," he added.

Internally, two of the most visible Tesla execs, and likely potential candidates for CEO, are Andrew Baglino, Tesla SVP Powertrain & Energy Engineering, and Zachary Kirkhorn, Tesla Master of Coin, AKA the CFO. Externally, some have even posited former Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess, a big fan of Musk, could be an option.

Also at trial, former board member Antonio Gracias testified that there were conversations to hire an “administrative CEO” who could oversee day to day activities so Musk could “focus his time as chief product officer,” where Musk considers himself most useful.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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