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Tesla Taps Boss to monitor Musk



Tesla
Inc.

named board member, Robyn Denholm, as leader, encouraged her to monitor one of the world's most freewheeling characters in a key moment for the electric vehicle.

The 55-year-old financial expert's rise to the role is twice as unusual: she has to manage Elon Musk, the Iconoclastic CEO of Tesla, who led the company after becoming the largest investor in 2004. And she gives up her job as CFO in Australia's largest telecommunications company to take on the post at Tesla full time.

The opening of a new leader was created as part of a settlement reached with securities regulators that would give Mr. Musk more supervision.

Those who have worked with Miss Denholm at Telstra Corp, says she is levelheaded and direct.

Scott McNealy, co-founder and former CEO of Sun Microsystems, where Mrs Denholm worked in increasingly higher roles from 1

996 to 2007, said she could be a good supplement to Mr. Musk – if he leaves her.

"Elon wants the camera, he wants the microphone, Robyn does not care about it," said McNealy in an interview. "She is more COO-ish than she is a flamboyant CEO. She's about making sure the trains run out of time, the money is being spent properly, that all stakeholders are properly listened."

Many details about Mrs Denholms Role remains unclear, including what she should do on board meetings. Wednesday's announcement said she immediately took over as leader but would continue her role on Telstra for six months. Tesla said that Mr. Musk, to ensure a smooth transition over the course of that time, "would be a resource to Robyn and give any support she asks."

Tesla said it is not yet clear whether Miss Denholm is going to move from Australia to Silicon Valley-where Tesla is based and where she spent nearly two decades after leaving Telstra. Ms. Denholm will receive a $ 300,000 annual cash and 8,000 stock options each year, says Tesla.

Monitoring Mr. Musk would be a monumental task for even the most assertive chairman. CEO, which has also had The title of chief product designer, has driven Tesla almost as an extension of itself, spying on parts of the business as varied as strategy, marketing and engineering, as he sets himself down in the smallest production details. He is known for the mouth of Twitter all the time during the day and night, and in September he seemed to smoke marijuana during an online interview with a comedian.

The settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that led to Mrs Denholm's agreement arose from Mr. Musk's August 7 tweets that raised the idea of ​​taking Tesla privately 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 He would pick that price – a reference to marijuana – to impress his girlfriend.

September 29, with the SEC, where Herr Musk did not grant or deny any offense, instructed Mr. Musk to step down as chairman for three years, starting no later than November 13, but leaving him as Tesla CEO and board member. Mr. Musk and Tesla had to pay 20 million dollars in fines, and Tesla had to add two new independent board members and establish a system to monitor Mr. Musk's public statements. Tesla has until the end of December to meet these requirements.

Enthusiasm for the future of the future, including electric cars that drive themselves, has helped create Tesla's market value to rival

General motors
Co.

, although Tesla has never won annual profits and sells a fraction of the cars. Tesla's growth has largely been driven by its continued access to capital – either by issuing new shares or assuming new debt.

As a member of Tesla, Mrs Denholm has given some rare car experiences to a company as a pride of being an outsider outside the industry. She spent seven years

Toyota Motor
Corp.

in Australia, where she was a senior finance director, before she worked at Sun and then joined

Juniper Networks
Inc.

in 2007. She went there as CFO in 2016, and in 2017 he joined Telstra, the Australian telecommunications company.

"This is not someone to sit on the backside and not share a point of view," said David Meline, CFO at US drugmaker Amgen Inc., who served with Mrs. Denholm on the board of the Swiss engineering firm

ABB
Ltd.

"She is" someone who will certainly make her point understood. "

It's rare for anyone to give up a full-time role as head of one company to lead the board in another," says corporate management specialists.

"It's an opportunity to really redefine what it means to be a chairman and the governing dynamics of a CEO as an entrepreneur and mercurial like Elon, "said Jeffrey Cohn, global managing partner at DHR International, an executive search company." And it's possible she knows she can not get it right without being a full-time chair. "

Ms. Denholm has served on Tesla's board for four years, but has fewer ties with Mr. Musk than most other board members. Tesla's board has been criticized by some investors and advocates of an perceived lack of independence because most board members have close business or personal relationships with Mr. Musk.

Some investors are looking forward to Mrs Denholm's agreement. Tesla shares increased by 0.93% to $ 351.40, more than 40% above their lowest points this year and approached the $ 387.46 level after Mr. Musks tweeted to go privately.

"She is a good choice of current directors," she said. Dieter Waizenegger, CEO of CtW Investment Group, representing fund-funded pension funds that owns Tesla shares, who criticized Tesla's board. Proof of her "independent leadership will be whether she can turn the board into a functional unit that can lead the CEO," he said in an email.

Gabe Hoffman, a fund manager with a bearish effort on the Tesla share, said Mrs. Denholm is a bad choice because she is a current board member instead of a new employee and because she is the only board member "who is geographically located 1/2 way around the world, with a massive time zone difference. " [19659022] -Susan Pulliam, Vanessa Fuhrmans and Dan Strumpf contributed to this article.

Write to Tim Higgins at Tim.Higgins@WSJ.com


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