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article imageTesla names new chair as Elon Musk steps down

By Karen Graham     Nov 8, 2018 in Business
Tesla has named a new chair to replace Elon Musk after the CEO agreed to step down from the company's board as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Robyn Denholm's appointment as chairwoman of Tesla is effective immediately. She is the Chief Financial Officer at Australian telecom company Telstra, where she previously served as Chief Operations Officer. She has been a member of the Tesla board since 2014.
Denholm will leave her position as CFO and head of strategy of Telstra once her six-month notice period with the company is complete, Tesla said late on Wednesday. Before she came to Telstra, Denholm held executive positions with networking systems companies and served as a national finance manager for Toyota.
According to CNBC, the fact that Denholm has been on the Tesla board since 2014 is perhaps, the only down-side of the internal move. Investors and analysts were hoping an outsider would be better because they would be fully independent and better able to control Musk's often irrational antics.
"I could dream up 10 people from the outside that could be the chairperson, but I don't really know, from an ivory tower, if that makes sense," Baird analyst Ben Kallo told CNBC. "We all want a superstar — Larry Ellison at some point, or [Sheryl] Sandberg from Facebook — and as much as that sounds good on paper, in reality, this is probably a smarter, more measured decision."
Kallo says Denholm is as independent as an insider can get, and she's unlikely to make headlines. "She's always been a voice of good logic and reason [on the board] and helped balance out... anyone that would just go with the flow with Elon," Kallo said.
"Can she check Elon? I'm not sure, and I'm not sure if anyone could check him. Maybe his brother, but I think if they had his brother as chairperson everyone would be up in arms."
The SEC lawsuit against Elon Musk
We all know how the story began - In an August 7, tweet, Musk said he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share — and had funding secured. That tweet and the allegations of fraud by a short-trader spurred the SEC fraud charges and the subsequent settlement that mandated a new chairperson in the first place.
Tesla still has two more independent directors to appoint in compliance with the SEC settlement, and these appointments could shed some light on Denholm's impact as chairwoman, according to some analysts.
Musk and Tesla both were fined $20 million as part of the SEC settlement, and Musk actually came out pretty good. Originally, the SEC wanted him barred for life as the chairman of Tesla, but the SEC backed down, barring him from being the chair for three years.
"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," Tesla said in a news release. "Robyn will continue to provide the necessary focus and time to Telstra during the remainder of her time there, and she will also temporarily step down as Chair of Tesla's Audit Committee until she leaves Telstra."
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