Denholm is currently Head of Strategy and Chief Financial Officer at Australian telco giant Telstra. She will move into the Tesla role full-time after serving a six-month notice period at Telstra.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on November 9, 2018

She will move into Tesla’s Chair position vacated by Musk in a deal with the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) after the regulator took legal action against him for tweets it said breached securities law.

James Murdoch had reportedly been the early favourite for the job, though Musk had denied this was the case.

Denholm has years of experience on the Tesla board

Denholm has been a Board Member at Tesla since 2014 and has chaired Tesla’s audit committee, which oversees the automaker’s accounting and financial reporting.

Before working at Telstra, Denholm held positions at Sun Microsystems and Juniper Networks and was Australian Finance Manager at Toyota for seven years.

Musk welcomed Denholm’s appointment. “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,” he said.

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

Writing on Bloomberg Opinion, columnist Liam Denning said it was a “missed opportunity” for the company to bring in an outsider with a fresh perspective.

Baird Analyst Ben Kallo was more sanguine. He told CNBC that Denholm was a more sensible choice than some of the ‘superstar’ candidates said to be in the running, such as Sheryl Sandberg and Larry Ellison. “As much as that sounds good on paper, in reality, this is probably a smarter, more measured decision,” he said.

Industry observers have generally viewed Denholm as an experienced and level-headed operator who is likely to keep a lower profile than her headline-grabbing predecessor.

Robyn Denholm

Photo credit: Tesla

Tesla proud to become one of the few companies with a woman as Chair

In an email to The CEO Magazine, a Tesla spokesperson said Denholm will earn an annual cash retainer of US$300,000 and 8,000 stock options annually.

“This is in line with Tesla’s belief that Board compensation should align closely with shareholder value creation,” the spokesperson said.

“Robyn will not see value in her stock options unless all shareholders see value.”

The spokesperson also said that only 4% of board Chairs among the top 3,000 publicly traded companies were women and that “Tesla is proud to be among those boards with Robyn stepping into the Chair role.”

Tesla’s share price continued its upward trajectory after the announcement and was at US$351.40 at time of writing. The automaker recently reported its largest quarterly profit in the company’s history, making US$311 million in profit for Q3.