The electric car company has appointed Robyn Denholm, the CFO of Australia’s largest telecoms firm Telstra, as the woman to oversee its board.
She replaces CEO Elon Musk, who had to step down as chairman for at least three years as part of a deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission after his infamous “funding secured” tweet.
Here’s what you need to know about Tesla’s new chair, Robyn Denholm:
1. Robyn Denholm has been on the Tesla board since 2014
Denholm has been an independent director at Tesla for four years. She was the first woman to join the board of nine, which includes Musk and his brother, Kimbal.
Among her duties as a board member, she chaired Tesla’s audit committee, which provides oversight of the company’s accounting and financial reporting.
2. She’s CFO at Australia’s largest telecoms firm — but she’s only been in the role for a month
Denholm is CFO at Telstra, Australia’s biggest telecommunications company, and will be leaving the company after her six month notice period is up. She’ll get to work as Tesla’s chair immediately, however.
She only took up her role as CFO in October. Telstra’s CEO Andy Penn told the Sydney Morning Herald: “We know that it has become increasingly difficult to balance her responsibilities as Telstra CFO with the increased activity of the Tesla board.”
3. She was named in a lawsuit along with the rest of the board for failing to curb Musk’s erratic behavior
The lawsuit was filed by a shareholder, who claims that Tesla’s board “breached their fiduciary duties ” by allowing Musk to lie about the company having obtained funding to go private.
“Despite being put on notice of [Musk’s] propensity for erratic public communications that have harmed the Company and its stockholders, the Board consciously disregarded his actions and failed to do anything,” the suit alleged.
4. Denholm was part of a special committee that looked at taking Tesla private
She formed part of a three-person committee along with fellow directors Brad Buss and Linda Johnson Rice in August. The committee was announced on August 14, seven days after Musk’s “funding secured” tweet on August 7.
5. She’ll get a $300,000 retainer fee plus stock options
A Tesla spokesperson told CNBC that in her new post, Denholm will receive 8,000 in stock options each year on top of a $300,000 retainer.
6. She’s no stranger to the tech and auto industry
Previous to working at Telstra, Denholm held positions at Juniper Networks, Sun Microsystems, and Toyota Australia. She loves Tesla because it mixes her passions for tech and the auto industry.
“I am a car enthusiast and am passionate about innovation, so Tesla is the perfect board role for me,” she told executive search firm Odgers Berndtson earlier this year.
7. She’s not James Murdoch
Tesla board member James Murdoch, son of billionaire Rupert Murdoch, was touted by the Financial Times as the frontrunner to replace Musk. However, Musk himself quashed the Times’s report, tweeting “This is incorrect.”
Although he was reported as the favourite, Murdoch’s wasn’t the only name to be floated as Musk’s potential successor. Former Vice President Al Gore was also mooted as a potential successor.
8. Her parents owned a gas station
Denholm is taking the helm at the world’s most famous electric car company, but as a child, she reportedly tinkered with cars at her parents’ gas station in Milperra, New South Wales.
9. She had a Tesla on order before joining the firm
While her childhood may have been filled with petrol cars, she was fascinated by Tesla before even joining the company’s board. Denholm said she had a Model S on order before she was approached by Tesla. She is now on to her third Tesla vehicle.
10. She has the Elon Musk Twitter seal of approval
Musk’s Twitter activity has been a thorn in the side of Tesla’s board, but on Thursday he welcomed her appointment on his platform of choice.