The ‘ra­tio­nal’ busi­ness­woman picked to tem­per mer­cu­rial Musk

The Buffalo News - - BUSINESS - By Dana Hull and An­ders Melin BLOOMBERG NEWS

In pick­ing Robyn Den­holm to keep Elon Musk in check, Tesla Inc.’s board went with a num­bers-first ex­ec­u­tive who climbed up the ranks of multi­na­tion­als’ fi­nance de­part­ments. Those who know her say her no-non­sense meth­ods may be just what Tesla needs.

“Ev­ery­thing about her is ra­tio­nal, rea­son­able, and warm. I’m not sur­prised she got the job,” Scott McNealy, the co­founder and for­mer chair­man of Sun Mi­crosys­tems. “If Elon listens to her, he’ll be way more suc­cess­ful.”

As Tesla’s chair­man, Den­holm, 55, will be re­spon­si­ble for hold­ing back celebrity CEO Musk while guid­ing an elec­tric­car maker that’s still in a vol­ume ex­pan­sion phase and vul­ner­a­ble to fi­nan­cial set­backs. While Tesla just cel­e­brated a blowout quar­ter – post­ing a rare profit – many an­a­lysts ex­pect fur­ther cap­i­tal in­creases are needed be­fore the com­pany is on firm foot­ing.

Den­holm be­gan her ca­reer at au­dit and ac­count­ing ser­vices at Arthur An­der­sen, and left for a po­si­tion in the fi­nance depart­ment of Toy­ota’s Aus­tralian sub­sidiary. She joined Sun in 1996 and was there for 11 years, in­clud­ing a po­si­tion in the pi­o­neer­ing com­puter com­pany’s top lead­er­ship group. She de­clined to be in­ter­viewed.

“She seems to be supremely com­pe­tent in fi­nan­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” said Jef­frey Son­nen­feld, an ex­pert on lead­er­ship who teaches at the Yale School of Man­age­ment. “Of the likely choices, I think they made the best pick. Her strengths are not his and vice versa.”

Still, some see Den­holm as be­ing too close to Musk. A Tesla in­de­pen­dent di­rec­tor since 2014, she was part of a board that failed to pre­vent the CEO’s er­ratic ac­tions this year.

Bloomberg

A Tesla Inc. Model S elec­tric ve­hi­cle charges at a Su­per­charger sta­tion in Ru­bi­gen, Switzer­land.

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