By on November 8, 2018

Image: Tesla

A longtime Tesla board member, last heard from offering cover for CEO Elon Musk’s disastrous go-private tweet, will be the automaker’s new board chair, tasked with keeping Musk’s destructive tendencies in check.

In accepting the new role, Robyn says goodbye to her short-lived stint as chief financial officer and head of strategy at Australian telecommunications giant Telstra, which sounds a lot like “Tesla.” With Musk booted from the chairman position for a period of three years, Denholm will oversee a board with greater independence, or so the SEC hopes.

Musk’s removal was part of a settlement reached after the securities regulator slapped Musk and Tesla with a fraud lawsuit. Both man and company ended up paying $20 million fines. By installing a new chairman and two yet-to-be-named independent board members, the SEC hopes to put an end to the Elon Musk Show.

“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,” Denholm said in a statement. The new chair, who joined the board in 2014, was Telstra’s CFO for a little over a month. She won’t take another job, Bloomberg reports.

While Denholm’s background glows — her CV includes high-ranking positions at Toyota Motor Corp. and Sun Microsystems, among others — she told Australian media last month that she was not in the running for the position of Tesla chair. Obviously, something changed on that front. In a statement, Musk congratulated her for the new responsibility, later tweeting, “Would like to thank Robyn for joining the team. Great respect. Very much look forward to working together.”

Perhaps it’s Denholm’s history of financial management posts at Toyota that propelled her into the top spot. That said, not everyone thinks Denholm will be able to reign in a board seen as to beholden to Musk. To some, Denholm herself fits into that category.

“While Denholm is technically an independent member of the board, she has been part of the Musk team for some time now and that suggests she will not be up to the task of checking Musk’s worst instincts,” Stephen Diamond, a professor of law at Santa Clara University, told Bloomberg.

[Image: Tesla]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

17 Comments on “Musk Out, Robyn Denholm In: Tesla Board Names Its New Chair...”

  • avatar

    OK, which one of you 12 year olds is gonna say it first? C’mon. I’m waiting…

  • avatar

    Toyota, Sun, Telstra, Tesla, among others… can’t she keep a job?

    Telstra makes Metro PCS look like Verizon as far as reliability. I hate to be pessimistic, but it looks like Tesla hired the automotive equivalent of Marissa Mayer.
    Will Denholm also get 23 million to just go away?

  • avatar

    worked for Arthur Andersen, can’t make this stuff up.

  • avatar

    EM might as well have picked his brother. The compensation of the board is about $1.5 million per year, and that’s a pretty cushy gig. It’s way above the median payout for Directors, and yet they put an existing board member as the Chairman?

    Some of the larger institutional holders tried last year to get the company to split the CEO/Chairman roll but they lost. I simply can’t believe that the SEC or good institutional shareholders think this is a good thing. Anyway, the window dressing Q3 results have got the stock back to $350, and the $900 million Solar City March payment could be made with stock (with fairly minimal dilution) if they are trading at $359.

    Talk about pressure. Rolling out to Europe, which would bring in some solid profits, yet it means a bunch of cars on a bunch of boats which will blow up the A/P because that is not the same as Elon driving to a customers house. Put 20,000 cars on boats with an ASP of $50k and you have $1 billion that will take much longer to collect. Have they got homologation done with the EU or will they be held up like Audi for making a software change? I think OTA could be an issue within the EU. Hell, they even put this nugget into the shareholders letter:

    “We believe delivering vehicles to the front door of a customer’s house or office is superior from both a cost and customer satisfaction perspective.”

    Isn’t that rich. Mr. Musk tweeted out that Tesla will just start building transport trucks to facilitate deliveries, but strangely enough that was not mentioned in the shareholder letter and wasn’t asked during the earnings call. Q4 needs to be better than Q3 for them to keep the stock at the current level.

  • avatar


    “Some of the larger institutional holders tried last year to get the company to split the CEO/Chairman roll but they lost.”…I meant “role”, not roll. That’s what age will do to you!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    TSLA is up 40% since October 8th.

    • 0 avatar

      @SCE, absolutely the shares are up, and congrats to long-term CFO Deepak Ahuja for putting together a stellar set of financials. The man is an artist.

      I made another mistake in my post because cars on ships are pending A/R (duh), but it will also push up the A/P to suppliers and the payment terms may become an issue, but that will only become a problem when Europe shipments begin. I would imagine they will be able to send a bunch of cars with a high ASP for a while.

      So with a GAAP profit of $321 million, let’s remove the $52 million in ZEV Credits, and $137 million in other Credits (GHG?) so we’re down to $132 million in GAAP profits. ZEV Credits are trending down as other manufacturers are making incremental progress in meeting CAFE goals.

      A/R shot up to $1.16 billion, from $570 million in Q2. $115 million of this is owed by one entity – that’s a pretty big amount, did Tesla sell a batch of cars to a rental company, or is it from Panasonic? That’s almost 10% of A/R from one company. CFO Deepak blamed the high A/R number because the banks were closed on the day the quarter ended. Now that’s a hoot.

      They dropped their CapEx spending to $510 million, less than they spent in Q2. They built a grand total of 4 store/ service locations, they’re going to need many more if they sell all of the Model 3s that they expect to.

      44 new Superchargers, that’s about a 3.5% increase.

      And the audacity of including in the shareholder letter that they “aim to bring portions of Model 3 production to China in 2019” and also saying they purchased the land in China while actually it’s a 50-year lease, which is much easier on the balance sheet. So far, they have scraped the field to begin building the GF, but I find it rather hard that it will be producing anything in China in 2019.

      Let the hate begin. I want BEVs to succeed, you may disagree with my post, but don’t toss me under the bus as someone that hopes Tesla will fail. Since I broke my back, I read the 10-Qs of every stock I own. Shareholder letters are routinely puffery, the earnings calls are a joke, as the large banks never, ever ask any pointed question, just fluff. Why aren’t they asking “what’s up with Model Y?” “How about progress on the Semi?” Nope, just a bunch of softballs. Tesla is under a huge microscope, and if EM lays off Twitter, there is a path for continued profitability.

  • avatar

    She is merely a figure head, which will do Musk’s bidding. Does anyone really believe Musk won’t be calling the shots.

  • avatar

    “TSLA is up 40% since October 8th.

    Absolutely meaningless.

  • avatar

    “… Denholm will be able to reign in a board…”

    — Love the punny stuff.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Ol Shel: Bah! Kids these days! They don’t even like being jerked around by sleazy car dealers! What is this...
  • dal20402: I think he would rather be making deliveries to his buddy Vladimir Vladimirovich in Moscow.
  • mor2bz: I wish I could agree with you but I do not. Musk claims that incessant badmouthing of his company would be...
  • EBFlex: “ The same batch of people will whine about “defunding” and in the same breath complain about the...
  • Jeff S: @FreedMike–True that could change as interest rates become higher and supply of new vehicles increases...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber