Elon Musk out, Robyn Denholm in. Tesla Inc has a new board chair. Denholm, 55, is now performing the role made by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Musk who was the chief executive of the electric car company is not working anymore after several months of turbulent management.
Changes in leadership were part of the deal between Tesla and the securities regulator in September. This was to settle the charges regarding fraud against Tesla and Musk. Legal Experts are doubtful that Denholm is independent enough from the company since she has been with the board of the company for four years. They were unsure if Denholm could comply with the settlement that the court approved.
In 2014, Denholm became the independent director of Tesla and the head of the auditing committee. Tesla paid her about $5 million last year, most of which is stock options. Because of that, she was considered the highest remunerated among its board members.
In her LinkedIn profile, Denholm has worked in Toyota in Australia and is the finance chief of Telstra Corp Ltd. telecoms company in Australia. She will have a full-time job in Tesla after her resignation from Telstra.
Denholm joined the board at the time when the production targets that Musk set for the Model 3 were not reached. This was also the time when Musk tweeted a mocking statement to the SEC after receiving the fraud charge against him. On his tweet, he said to have secured the funds to take the company private.
Tesla now must produce a written certification to the court-approved settlement regarding its appointed chairman who is considered independent. Tesla should also give enough exhibits and evidence to make a good case.
The term independent is quite broad, but the legal professionals think that the Tesla company does not comply with the settlement letter. Stephen Diamond, a professor of corporate governance at Santa Clara University, said that the culture change of the board indeed violates the principle of the settlement.
In relation to the court judgment, the SEC has decided not to comment further on the matter.
Musk is still the biggest shareholder of Tesla; that makes him an important person behind the technology of car transport and electric battery. On Twitter, he approved Denholm’s appointment.
An analyst of Chaim Siegel, Elazar Capital, said that Musk wanted him and Denholm to see eye-to-eye, as the latter joined the Tesla team.
Before studying at Sydney University and joining Arthur Andersen’s accounting firm, Denholm helped her parents at their gas station.
After that, she worked at several companies such as Sun Microsystems, ABB Ltd, and Juniper Networks. She also worked at Toyota Australia as a national manager of finance.
When Andy Pen, Telstra CEO, appointed Denholm, he said that she is business-focused and has a solid track record as a global COO and on telecommunications networks.
On the other hand, Patricia Lenkov, executive recruiter, stated her opinion that Denholm was best suited for the job. Lenkov believed Tesla should have gotten a more experienced person who can deal with powerful founders. He added that putting Denholm in this kind of work can be risky for the company.
Meanwhile, Tesla has lost some of their senior executives as the company after promises on Musk’s production of the Model 3 sedan. Their vice president for manufacturing, Gilbert Passin, left recently.
Garrett Nelson, CFRA Research analyst, also stated that Denholm has positive industry experience with Toyota. So, Tesla should avoid risk by getting an outsider who might clash with Musk.
Tesla is one of the most widely known companies in the world, thanks to the self-promotion of the Silicon Valley billionaire. However, it has also resulted in public debates with Wall Street investors, analysts, journalists, and Azealia Banks, rapper.