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Tesla taps director Denholm as chair after Musk rows


By Pushkala Aripaka

(Reuters) - Inc Robyn Denholm, who has worked for Toyota, has been promoted to of the company and tasked with regulating billionaire Elon Musk's regime after months of turbulence.

An Australian accountant, Denholm is currently chief at telecoms firm Corp Ltd and replaces Musk after he was forced to relinquish the role as part of a deal to head off charges of fraud by the

The change in structure at the Silicon Valley company, agreed to by Musk in a September court settlement, is supported by many on Wall Street who worry that his record of erratic behaviour is undermining the company's progress.

While she will resign from to take the role full-time, some analysts expressed concern that she may not be far enough removed from Musk to rein in the billionaire's public outbursts and bring more order to

Denholm, 55, has been an of since 2014 and the head of its audit committee. She was paid almost $5 million, mainly in stock options, by the company last year, making her the highest remunerated of its board members.

Musk, who remains Tesla's biggest shareholder and the driving force behind its ambitious plans to reshape and car transport, tweeted his approval of the appointment.

"Musk, I believe has a ton to do with the selection and he wants to be sure that they can see eye-to-eye," said

Tesla's court-approved settlement agreement with the SEC requires the company to appoint an "independent" chairman, although it does not define what it considers to be so.

The regulator declined to say on Thursday if it had approved the appointment of Denholm.

Stephen Diamond, a at Santa Clara University, said in general the definition of "independent" is relaxed and that as a result he believed the SEC would not object.

"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.

Top proxy advisers and Glass, had each classified Denholm as an "independent" of Tesla in reports to the carmaker's investors earlier this year.


Denholm pumped petrol at her parents' filling station before going on to study at and joining accountancy firm

Since then, she has worked at maker , network gear firm and 1980s and 90s giant

CEO, Andy Penn, said when he appointed her: "Robyn has a proven track record as a focused on "

"She has overseen business model transformation, supply chain and broader business process re-engineering. She has been a of complex which make her ideally qualified for the role."

Patricia Lenkov, however, said that Denholm likely was not the right pick for the job, arguing Tesla needed a figure with more experience dealing with strong founders.

"There might be an element of risk here. She's not a proven entity in this kind of work," she said.

While Tesla is finally starting to make good on Musk's promises on production of the Model 3 sedan, seen as crucial to the company's future, it has lost senior executives for sales, human resources, and in recent months.

Its for was reported last month to have left.

"We view the fact that Denholm has prior industry experience with positively," said Garrett Nelson, adding it made sense that Tesla should seek to avoid the risk of a genuine outsider clashing with Musk.

The Silicon Valley billionaire's gift for self-promotion has made Tesla one of the world's most talked-about businesses but also caused public spats with journalists, analysts, Wall Street investors and

He is being sued for calling one of the divers behind this year's Thai cave rescue a "pedo".

According to The Australian newspaper, Denholm said the only things that really disappoint her are rudeness and waste.

"Politeness costs you absolutely nothing. It doesn't matter whether you are the most senior person in the room, or the most junior," she told the paper in an interview a few years ago.

Tesla shares were up 1.4 percent in morning trading.

(Additional reporting by and in Bengaluru, Melanie Burton in Melbourne, and Michelle Price and Jan Wolfe in Washington; Editing by Patrick Graham, Bernard Orr)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, November 08 2018. 23:51 IST