Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi have agreed to join an advisory team for President-elect Donald Trump. The announcement was made on the transition website on the same day Trump is scheduled to meet with Musk at Trump Tower:
“America has the most innovative and vibrant companies in the world, and the pioneering CEOs joining this Forum today are at the top of their fields,” said President-elect Trump. “My Administration is going to work together with the private sector to improve the business climate and make it attractive for firms to create new jobs across the United States from Silicon Valley to the heartland.”
Members of the Forum will be charged with providing their individual views to the President — informed by their unique vantage points in the private sector — on how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation and productivity. The Forum is designed to provide direct input to the President from many of the best and brightest in the business world in a frank, non-bureaucratic and non-partisan manner.
The Hill reports Uber’s Kalanick issued a statement saying, “I look forward to engaging with our incoming President and this group on issues that affect our riders, drivers and the 450+ cities where we operate.”
Trump had previously announced 16 members of the forum including Ginni Rometty of IBM, Doug McMillon of Wal-Mart and Bob Iger of Disney. Forbes points out that the addition of Musk and Nooyi is somewhat of a surprise given that both executives were critical of Trump:
“I think a bit strongly that [Trump] is probably not the right guy” for the presidency, and that “he doesn’t seem to have the sort of character that reflects well on the United States,” Musk told CNBC during an interview on November 4.
Speaking at the Dealbook conference in New York two days after the election, Nooyi, who had supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, joked about needing a box of tissues and went on to denounce the overtly misogynistic tone to things that Trump said on the campaign trail and in his life as a private citizen — including the comments he made in 2005 about grabbing women by their crotches and using his celebrity status to sleep with them.
There are two ways to take this. One is that Trump is setting aside past disagreements and seeking the best people for his team. Football hall-of-famer Jim Brown alluded to that after his meeting with Trump saying, “People that called him names…when he won he reached back and brought them along with him.”
The other, more cynical, alternative is that Trump really enjoys rubbing his win in the faces of people who were his critics, e.g. he seemed to relish dangling the Secretary of State job before former critic Mitt Romney.
Trump is cagey enough that the truth might be a bit of both. One thing you have to say for him though, it seems everyone who has met with him in person, from Al Gore to Jim Brown has come away pleasantly surprised by the encounter. Trump never had the slick charisma of a Bill Clinton or Barack Obama when delivering a stump speech from a teleprompter, but it seems that in person and up close he is pretty capable of winning people over or, at a minimum, of convincing them to hold their fire.