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New chair at Tesla: Robyn Denholm replaces Elon Musk

New chair at Tesla: Robyn Denholm replaces Elon Musk

Tesla's board HAS named Australian telecommunications executive Robyn Denholm as new Tesla chairman to replace Elon Musk and comply with the terms of a fraud settlement with USA securities regulators.

Denholm will leave her role as CFO and head of strategy at Telstra once her six-month notice period with the company is complete, Tesla said late on Wednesday.

Tesla announced Denholm's appointment weeks after the Financial Times reported that James Murdoch, who also sits on Tesla's board, was the frontrunner.

Musk has strived to turn Tesla into a profitable, mass-market producer of environmentally friendly electric cars, but his impulsive streak caused him trouble when he tweeted in August that he had "funding secured" for taking Tesla private.

In addition to replacing Musk as chair, the SEC settlement requires two more independent directors and a securities lawyer to act as a Twitter-sitter for Musk. Musk and Tesla were also fined $20 million each as part of the deal. "Great respect. Very much look forward to working together", Musk tweeted early on Thursday.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk stands on the podium as he attends a forum on startups in Hong Kong, China January 26, 2016.




"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", said Stephen Diamond, a professor of law at Santa Clara University who specializes in corporate governance. In media interviews he said he often slept on a sofa in the Tesla office and more recently in an online video he briefly smoked marijuana. Besides Telstra, her previous experience includes Juniper Network, Sun Microsystems and Toyota.

"But it does violate the spirit of the settlement, which was to change the culture of the board so there was a check on Musk's worst instincts", he added.

The new chairman isn't likely to influence Musk's behavior, said Frank Schwope, an analyst with NordLB in Germany. In the meantime, she'll work closely with Musk.

Days after settling with the SEC over the now famous tweet, Musk turned around and mocked the agency, in another tweet.

Tesla shares were up 1.4 percent in morning trading.

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