As part of Tesla and Elon Musk’s settlement with the SEC over the former’s comments about taking the company private, Tesla’s board had to appoint a new chair.
Today, Tesla announced that the board appointed longtime board member Robyn Denholm as new chair to replace Musk.
Denholm, second from the right on the picture above, has been on Tesla’s board for the past 4 years.
She began her career in Australia serving at Toyota for seven years and when she joined Tesla, she was COO/CFO at Juniper Networks.
At the time, she was seen as the board member most independent from Elon Musk as the board was populated with his family, friends, and longtime investors.
In recent years, she has been working as CFO and Head of Strategy at Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, but she has now given a 6-month notice in order to become Tesla’s full-time chair.
She commented on the announcement of her appointment:
“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,”
In a press release, Tesla’s board says that Musk will remain “a resource” to provide Denholm “support” in a new role.
Musk commented on Denholm’s appointment:
“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. I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”
Tesla’s press release:
Announcing Robyn Denholm as Tesla’s New Board Chair
Tesla’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Robyn Denholm has been appointed as Chair of the Tesla Board, effective immediately. So that she will be able to devote her full attention to the Tesla Chair role, Robyn will be leaving her role as CFO and Head of Strategy at Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications company, once her six-month notice period with Telstra is complete. Robyn will be serving as Tesla Chair on a full-time basis.
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. 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.
Robyn has served on the Tesla Board as an independent director since 2014. Her global experience in both Australia and Silicon Valley encompasses leadership roles across a range of technology companies, including Telstra, Juniper Networks, and Sun Microsystems. She is widely credited with leading a team that drove significant increases in Juniper’s revenues, overseeing Juniper’s corporate transformation during her nine-year tenure as Chief Financial and Operations Officer. Her experience also includes numerous finance management roles in the automotive industry while at Toyota.
“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,” Robyn said.
“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 Elon. “I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”
Like I have been saying since it was announced that Musk needed to step down from the position, I think the most important thing is for the new chairperson to be all-in in Tesla mission.
It makes sense to appoint a board member who was around for a while and “pre-success” if you will.
While I don’t know enough about Denholm to say that she is all-in on Tesla’s mission, I think she likely is because of that.
She is also one of the most independent board members, which should make the SEC happy. Though I am not sure how they will take Tesla’s board saying everything but that Musk is going to advise her.
That said, it’s not unusual in a CEO-chairperson relationship.
As for investors, I think more people will be happy about her appointment than James Murdoch, whose name has been floated for the role.
It’s likely the less disrupting change they could make to the board – though it’s not the last one.
Tesla still needs to appoint two new independent board members as part of the SEC settlement. They will be suggested by the board and their appointement will have to be voted on by shareholders.