Tesla Taps Boss to Oversee Musk
named board member Robyn Denholm as its chairman, tasking her with overseeing one of the most trade international’s maximum freewheeling figures at a pivotal second for the electric-vehicle corporate.
The 55-year-old finance knowledgeable’s ascension to the position is doubly peculiar: She will want to arrange Elon Musk, the iconoclastic leader govt of Tesla who has led the corporate after turning into its biggest investor in 2004. And she is giving up her task as CFO of Australia’s biggest telecommunications corporate to suppose the submit at Tesla full-time.
The opening for a brand new chairman used to be created as a part of a agreement reached with securities regulators meant to give Mr. Musk extra supervision.
Those who’ve labored with Ms. Denholm at Telstra Corp., say she is levelheaded and direct.
Scott McNealy, co-founder and previous CEO of Sun Microsystems, the place Ms. Denholm labored in increasingly more senior roles from 1996 to 2007, mentioned she can be a just right supplement to Mr. Musk—if he we could her.
“Elon wants the camera, he wants the microphone—Robyn doesn’t care about that,” Mr. McNealy mentioned in an interview. “She’s more COO-ish than she is flamboyant CEO. She’s all about making sure the trains run on time, that the money is being spent properly, that all of the stakeholders are properly listened to.”
Many information about Ms. Denholm’s position stay unclear, together with what she is going to do between board conferences. Wednesday’s announcement mentioned she used to be taking on as chairman instantly, however would proceed her position at Telstra for 6 months. Tesla mentioned Mr. Musk, to be sure that a easy transition all the way through that point, would “be a resource to Robyn and provide any support that she requests.”
Tesla mentioned it isn’t but transparent whether or not Ms. Denholm will transfer from Australia to Silicon Valley—the place Tesla is based totally and the place she spent just about 20 years running—after she departs Telstra. Ms. Denholm gets a $300,000 annual money retainer and eight,000 inventory choices every 12 months, Tesla mentioned.
Overseeing Mr. Musk can be a huge job for even essentially the most assertive chairman. The CEO, who has additionally held the name of leader product architect, has run Tesla virtually as an extension of himself, spearheading portions of the trade as various as technique, advertising and engineering whilst immersing himself within the smallest of manufacturing main points. He is legendary for mouthing off on Twitter in any respect hours of the day and evening, and in September seemed to smoke marijuana all the way through an internet interview with a comic.
The agreement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that led to Ms. Denholm’s appointment arose from Mr. Musk’s Aug. 7 tweets elevating the speculation of taking Tesla non-public and announcing he had secured investment for a deal at $420 a proportion. Shares to start with soared with the sudden information, most effective to later plummet because it changed into transparent over resulting days that Mr. Musk didn’t have a finished plan.
The SEC alleged that Mr. Musk didn’t have investment locked down and accused him of choosing that worth—a reference to marijuana—to galvanize his female friend.
The Sept. 29 agreement with the SEC, by which Mr. Musk neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, required Mr. Musk to step down as chairman for 3 years, beginning no later than Nov. 13, however let him stay as Tesla CEO and board member. Mr. Musk and Tesla every had to pay $20 million in fines, and Tesla used to be required to upload two new impartial board contributors and identify a gadget to oversee Mr. Musk’s public statements. Tesla has till the top of December to meet the ones necessities.
Enthusiasm for Mr. Musk’s imaginative and prescient of the longer term, together with electrical vehicles that pressure themselves, has helped push Tesla’s marketplace price to rival
, even supposing Tesla hasn’t ever became an annual benefit and sells a fragment of the vehicles. Tesla’s expansion has been, largely, fueled by means of its persisted get right of entry to to capital—both via issuing new stocks or taking up new debt.
As a Tesla board member, Ms. Denholm has supplied some uncommon car enjoy to an organization that prides itself on being an trade outsider. She spent seven years at
in Australia, the place she used to be a senior monetary supervisor, earlier than running at Sun after which becoming a member of
in 2007. She left there as leader monetary and operations officer in 2016, and in 2017 joined Telstra, the Australian telecom corporate.
“This is not somebody who’s going to sit at the back and not share a point of view,” mentioned David Meline, CFO at U.S. drugmaker Amgen Inc., who served with Ms. Denholm at the board of the Swiss engineering corporate
“She is “somebody who’s certainly going to make their point understood.”
It is unusual for any individual to surrender a full-time position as a most sensible govt at one corporate to head the board of some other, company governance consultants say.
“It’s an opportunity to really redefine what it means to be a board chair and the governing dynamic with a CEO as entrepreneurial and mercurial as Elon,” mentioned Jeffrey Cohn, world managing spouse at DHR International, an executive-search company. “And it’s possible she knows she can’t get it right without being a full-time chair.”
Ms. Denholm has served on Tesla’s board for 4 years however has fewer ties to Mr. Musk than maximum fellow administrators. Tesla’s board has come below grievance from some buyers and advocates for a perceived loss of independence as a result of many of the administrators have shut trade or non-public relationships with Mr. Musk.
Some buyers cheered Ms. Denholm’s appointment. Tesla stocks edged up zero.93% to $351.40, greater than 40% above their lowest level this 12 months and coming near the $387.46 stage after Mr. Musk’s tweet about going non-public.
“Of the current directors, she is a good choice,” mentioned Dieter Waizenegger, govt director of CtW Investment Group, which represents union-sponsored pension price range that personal Tesla stocks and which has criticized Tesla’s governance. Proof of her “independent leadership will be whether she can transform the board into a functional entity that can guide the CEO,” he mentioned in an electronic mail.
Gabe Hoffman, a fund supervisor who has a bearish wager on Tesla inventory, mentioned Ms. Denholm is a deficient selection as a result of she is a present board member relatively than a brand new appointee and since she is the one board member “who is geographically located 1/2 way around the world, with a massive time zone difference.”
—Susan Pulliam, Vanessa Fuhrmans and Dan Strumpf contributed to this text.
Write to Tim Higgins at [email protected]