is Robyn Denholm as its new leader and replaces CEO Elon Musk as chairman of the board with a relative outsider who faces the difficult task of monitoring maverick billionaire.
Ms. Denholm, CFO of the Australian telecommunications company Telstra Corp., has served on Tesla's board since 2014, but has fewer ties with Mr. Musk than most of the company's board members. Tesla said she would leave her CFO role at Telstra in the coming months.
The announcement late Wednesday comes before a November 1
Installing Mrs. Denholm, 55 years old, who leads another leader on top of Tesla for the first time since the earliest days when Mr. Musk was appointed leader in 2004 after becoming the biggest investor. Mr. Musk, who has also had the title of chief product designer, has run Tesla almost as an extension of himself and spies parts of the business as varied as strategy and marketing, and engineering, as he settles down in the smallest production details. He remains CEO.
The decision pushes into one of the brightest spotlight in American business a woman who is little known in the United States but has long experience as CFO in Silicon Valley and her native Australia.
Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press
As a Tesla board member, Mrs Denholm has given some rare car experiences to a company proud to be an outsider outside the industry. She spent seven years
in Australia, where she was senior financial management.
Her career flourished in the technology industry. She had different roles on Sun Microsystems before joining
in 2007. She went as Finance Director and Operator in 2016 and in 2017 he joined Telstra, where she was chief executive. She became CFO this year.
Enthusiasm for the future of the future, including electric cars that drive themselves, has helped create Tesla's market value to rival
, although Tesla has never won annual profits and sells a fraction of the cars. Tesla's growth has largely been driven by continued access to capital – either by issuing new shares or repaying debt. A Tesla without Mr. Musk will probably have more difficult time-consuming resources, analysts have said.
This creates a challenging situation for the Tesla board and Mrs Denholm. They must manage Mr. Musk while allowing him to operate in the unconventional way that has made it possible for his success. Tesla acknowledges so much in its filing with the SEC, and notes that the company is "highly dependent on services" from Mr. Musk.
The SEC dispute stems from Mr. Musk's August 7 tweets where he raised the idea of Tesla takes private and said he had secured funding for a $ 420 deal per share. Shares originally rose with the unexpected news only until later the plum as it became clear over the following days that Mr. Musk did not have a finished plan.
SEC claimed that Mr. Musk had no funds locked down and accused him of picking that price – a reference to marijuana – to impress his girlfriend.
September 29, settlement with the SEC, where Mr Musk neither admitted nor denied offenses, asked him and Tesla each to pay 20 million dollars in fines. It also needed Tesla to add two new independent board members and to establish a system to monitor Mr. Musk's public statements. Tesla has until December to meet these requirements. Mr. Musk was allowed to remain as Tesla CEO and remain on Tesla's board.
It is unclear whether the loss of leadership role will change Mr. Musk's behavior. Mr. Musk, known for his lack of self-control on Twitter, has seemed to shed light on the problem. On October 30, he tweeted that he had deleted the titles and wanted to leave "Nothing of Tesla" until he added in another message that the company was legally required to have some titles and suggested that he would go by president.
Days later, the company filed paperwork with the SEC who continued to call him CEO.
This tweet was part of a series of statements since the SEC settlement that seemed to point to it without crossing a line to make the agency take new action. On October 4, he appeared to stroke the SEC in a tweet mark of the agency as "Shortseller Enrichment Commission", a reference to his feud with investors aiming at Tesla.
Write to Tim Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com