Tesla names new chair to replace Elon Musk


Electric car company Tesla has appointed an executive at Australian company Telstra to chair its board.

Robyn Denholm takes over the role from founder Elon Musk, who will remain as Tesla’s chief executive.

Mr Musk agreed to give up the chairmanship last month to resolve claims of fraud brought by US financial regulators.

The settlement requires Tesla to install an independent chairman, among other penalties.

The move scotches reports that James Murdoch might have been appointed to the job.

Stronger oversight

Tesla has endured a difficult few months, following comments on social media in early August made by the firm’s founder, Elon Musk, suggesting he had “funding secured” for a deal to take Tesla private. Tesla’s shares soared following his comments.

Weeks later, Mr Musk backed away from the plan, citing investor feedback.

US authorities sued Mr Musk for misleading investors and as a result Tesla and Mr Musk were each required to pay a fine of $20m. Mr Musk was also obliged to relinquish his role as chairman for three years.

Investors had also called for stronger oversight of Mr Musk after his erratic behaviour attracted attention. In media interviews he said he often slept on a sofa in the Tesla office and more recently in an online video he briefly smoked marjuana.

Tesla, which has never reported an annual profit, also came under strain over production schedules for its Model 3 electric car, its newest car aimed at a wider market. However, the carmaker made what Mr Musk called an “historic” profit in the most recent quarter.

‘Extensive experience’

Robyn Denholm has served as a director on Tesla’s board since August 2014. She has been with Australian telecoms firm Telstra since 2017 and was appointed Telstra’s chief financial officer in July this year.

Ms Denholm will take over as chairwoman at Tesla with immediate effect and will take on the role on a full-time basis. However, she will step down temporarily from her role as chairwoman of Tesla’s Audit Committee until she has worked her six-month notice period at Telstra, the company said.

“I believe in this company, I believe in its mission and I look forward to helping Elon and the Tesla team achieve sustainable profitability and drive long-term shareholder value,” Ms Denholm said, following the appointment.

Before moving to Telstra, Ms Denholm, worked for Silicon Valley computing firm Sun Microsystems, Japanese car firm Toyota, consultants Arthur Anderson and, most recently, networking equipment firm Juniper Networks.

“Robyn has extensive experience in both the tech and auto industries, and she has made significant contributions as a Tesla Board member over the past four years in helping us become a profitable company,” said Mr Musk.


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