Telstra executive Robyn Denholm named as new Tesla chairwoman

She replaces Elon Musk, who agreed to vacate his post as board chairman as part of a settlement with US regulators.

Tesla has announced that Robyn Denholm of Australia’s Telstra will become its new board chairwoman.

The electric car company said Ms Denholm will leave Telstra after a six-month notice period with Australia’s biggest telecoms company. The appointment takes effect immediately.

Ms Denholm already is on Tesla’s board. The firm said her post as board chairwoman will be a full-time position.

It comes after Elon Musk agreed to vacate his post as board chairman as part of a settlement with US regulators of a lawsuit alleging he duped investors with misleading statements about a proposed buyout of the company.

The settlement in late September with the Securities and Exchange Commission allowed Mr Musk to remain chief executive of Tesla but required him to relinquish his role as chairman for at least three years.

Apart from appointing a new chairman, Tesla was required to appoint two new independent members to its board, to provide stronger oversight to match Tesla’s growing stature and market value.

Mr Musk has strived to turn Tesla into a profitable, mass-market producer of environmentally friendly electric cars, but his impulsive streak caused him trouble when he tweeted in August that he had “funding secured” for taking Tesla private.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk (Brian Lawless/PA)

Australian Ms Denholm is Telstra’s chief financial officer and head of strategy and has served on Tesla’s board as an independent director. She has also worked at various technology companies including Juniper Networks and Sun Microsystems and held finance management posts at Toyota in Australia.

“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,” she said in a statement.

Mr Musk cited her long experience in the tech and motor industries as strong advantages and said in a statement that he looked forward to working with her.

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