Tesla has confirmed that Robyn Denholm is replacing Elon Musk as chair of Tesla’s board after he was forced to step down by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in October.

The Tesla CEO and founder was forced to pay a $20m fine after making a series of “false and misleading tweets” in which he claimed he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private.

The SEC also demanded an independent chair replace the billionaire businessman as part of the settlement. Since then, the hunt has been on to find his replacement, with James Murdoch at one time reportedly at the top of the list.

Australian Robyn Denholm will take the role of chair with immediate effect. Commenting on her appointment, she said:

“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.”

It is hoped that Denholm will steady the ship at Tesla, which has had a turbulent few months. But who is Robyn Denholm, and what experience will she bring to the electric carmaker?

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By GlobalData

Who is Robyn Denholm?

Denholm, 55, is a familiar face at Tesla, having served as director and audit chair since August 2014. She has extensive experience in executive roles at energy and technology companies.

In addition to her previous role at Tesla, Denholm has been chief operations officer of telecommunications company Telstra Corporation Limited since January 2017. There she oversaw $3bn investments in business intelligence, data analytics and digitisation.

Before that, she was with networking equipment manufacturer Juniper Networks for nine years. During her time there as EVP, CFO and COO, Denholm was credited with a big increase of Juniper’s revenues – something that investors will be hoping for at Tesla, with the company yet to report an annual profit.

In an interview with executive search company Odgers Berndston, Denholm said:

“I love being on the Tesla board as it marries many of the things I am passionate about, such as energy and technology, given my prior board position at ABB and my roles at Sun and Juniper. Also, Tesla is a founder-led company and I have been around founder-led companies for much of my career.”

Prior to that, she held various executive roles at Sun Microsystems, between January 1996 and August 2007.

Denholm has previous experience in the automotive industry, with a seven-year spell at Toyota Motor Corporation Australia as well as financial roles at Arthur Anderson & Company. She was also director of ABB Ltd from April 2016 until April 2017.

Robyn Denholm has “extensive experience”

Denholm’s education shows strong financial roots: a degree in economics from the University of Sydney and a master’s degree in commerce from the University of New South Wales.

She is also a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia and has featured on the California National Diversity council list of Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology.

In a Tesla press release, Musk said:

“Robyn 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.

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

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