New Tesla chair­woman’s big­gest chal­lenge is con­trol­ling Musk

Chicago Sun-Times - - BUSINESS -

DETROIT — Aus­tralian telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­ec­u­tive Robyn Den­holm brings much-needed fi­nan­cial and auto in­dus­try ex­per­tise to her new role as Tesla’s board chair­woman, but her big­gest chal­lenge is whether she can rein in a CEO with a pro­cliv­ity for mis­be­hav­ior.

Den­holm, who has been a Tesla board mem­ber for nearly five years, was named to the post late Wed­nes­day, re­plac­ing Elon Musk as part of a se­cu­ri­ties fraud set­tle­ment with U.S. govern­ment reg­u­la­tors.

Cor­po­rate gov­er­nance ex­perts say they would have pre­ferred an out­sider with man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­per­tise be ap­pointed to lead the board, now dom­i­nated by peo­ple with per­sonal and fi­nan­cial ties to Musk, in­clud­ing his brother.

They aren’t sure if Den­holm was hired just to pla­cate the Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion to com­ply with the set­tle­ment or whether she’ll ac­tu­ally be able to cor­ral the vi­sion­ary but er­ratic Musk, who re­mains CEO.

Den­holm, 55, is chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and strat­egy head at Tel­stra Corp. Ltd., Aus­tralia’s largest telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany. Her new role at Tesla came largely be­cause of the board’s fail­ure to con­trol Musk, es­pe­cially when he made a sur­prise an­nounce­ment over Twit­ter in Au­gust that fund­ing was se­cured to take Tesla pri­vate at $420 per share.

That drove up Tesla’s stock price and hurt in­vestors who bet against the com­pany’s suc­cess. Even­tu­ally it drew a law­suit from the SEC al­leg­ing that Musk mis­led in­vestors.

Elon Musk

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