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Tesla Has Named an Australian Telecommunications Exec as it's New Board Chair
Tesla announced on Wednesday that it has named Robyn Denholm, chief financial officer and head of strategy at Australian telecommunications giant Telstra (which sounds weirdly like Tesla) as the new chair of its board.
Denholm’s appointment is effective immediately. She will be stepping down from her role with Telstra – once she’s completed her six-month notice period – to work full time as Tesla’s chairwoman.
Denholm will replace Elon Musk as head of the board, fulfilling an agreement Tesla made as part of its $20-million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve a lawsuit filed by the government after Musk tweeted his desire to take his company private. The agreement stipulates that Musk is barred from serving as chairman for at least three years.
“To ensure a smooth transition during the remainder of Robyn’s time at Telstra, Elon will be a resource to Robyn and provide any support that she requests in her role as Chair,” Tesla said in a statement. “Robyn will continue to provide the necessary focus and time to Telstra during the remainder of her time there, and she will also temporarily step down as Chair of Tesla’s Audit Committee until she leaves Telstra.”
Denholm has served as as an independent member of the Tesla board since 2014. She also held “numerous finance management roles” at Toyota, giving her experience in the auto industry.
“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,” Denholm said in a statement.
It remains to be seen whether Denholm and Tesla makes any other changes to its board going forward. Tesla has long been criticized for having a board of directors that is stacked with allies of Musk, calling into question its independence.
A group of investors recently wrote a letter calling on Tesla to overhaul its board and to implement greater oversight over Musk. The letter – sent by the CtW Investment Group – accused Tesla of having an “insulated board,” noting that while “meeting the technical definition of independence, five of eight current non-executive directors have professional or personal ties” to Musk.
However, implementing a separation between the chairman and CEO roles – even if it was forced by regulators – could quiet some of the criticisms against Tesla’s chain of command.
“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,” Musk said in a statement. “I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”