Tesla names Denholm as board chair to replace Musk


NEW YORK • Electric car pioneer Tesla Inc yesterday named an Australian telecommunications executive to chair its board of directors, after the controversial Elon Musk was forced by US authorities to step back from the role.

The appointment of Robyn Denholm, CFO with Telstra Corp Ltd and already a Tesla board member, is effective immediately, but she will serve out her six-month notice period with the Australian company, Tesla said in a statement.

Musk had to resign as Tesla chairman 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 US$20 million (RM83.2 million) fine, but Musk was allowed to stay on as CEO.

He will help ease the 55-year-old Denholm’s transition, Tesla said.

“To ensure a smooth transition during the remainder of Denholm’s time at Telstra, Musk will be a resource to Denholm and provide any support that she requests in her role as chair, the electric carmaker said. Musk praised Denholm’s input in her time on Tesla’s board.

“Denholm has extensive experience in both the tech and auto industries, and she has made significant contributions as a Tesla board member over the past four years in helping us become a profitable company,” he said in the Tesla statement.

“I look forward to working even more closely with Denholm as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy,” Musk added.

Denholm said: “I believe in this company, I believe in its mission and I look forward to helping Musk and the Tesla team achieve sustainable profitability and drive long-term shareholder value.”

Musk was forced to resign as chairman after the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged him with securities fraud, alleging that he misled investors when he tweeted on Aug 7 that he had “funding secured” to delist Tesla at US$420 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.