Aussie telecoms executive to replace Musk as Tesla chair
Electric car pioneer Tesla named an Australian telecoms executive to chair its board of directors on Thursday, after the controversial Elon Musk was forced by US authorities to step back from the role.
The appointment of Robyn Denholm, chief financial officer with Telstra and already a Tesla board member, was effective immediately but she would serve out her six-month notice period with the Australian company, Tesla said.
Musk had to resign as Tesla chair under a September arrangement with US regulators to settle fraud charges stemming from a tweet in which he said he planned to take the firm private and had financing to do it.
Under that settlement, he and Tesla each had to pay a $20m (R280m) fine but Musk was allowed to stay on as chief executive.
Musk would help to ease 55-year-old Denholm’s transition, Tesla said.
“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,” the electric car maker said.
Musk praised Denholm’s input in her time on Tesla’s board.
“Robyn has extensive experience in both the tech and auto industries, and has made significant contributions as a Tesla board member over the past four years in helping us become a profitable company,” he said.
“I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”
Denholm 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.”
Musk was forced to resign as chair after the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged him with securities fraud.
They alleged that he misled investors when he tweeted on August 7 that he had “funding secured” to delist Tesla at $420 (R5,889) a share, a substantial premium over its share price at the time.
The tweet was one of a number of issues that raised questions about the billionaire entrepreneur’s aptness to lead Tesla.
The tycoon was the subject of controversy when he smoked a joint during a September podcast interview in California and discussed the end of the universe.
Denholm has been chief financial officer and head of strategy at Telstra, Australia’s former telephone monopoly, since the start of October.
For 18 months prior to that she was Telstra’s chief operations officer, and previously held senior roles at networking equipment company Juniper Networks.
Telstra chief executive Andy Penn said: “We are sorry to see Robyn leave Telstra.
“We know that it has become increasingly difficult to balance her responsibilities as Telstra CFO with the increased activity of the Tesla board.”