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An insider and counterweight to musk



Tesla's newly appointed Chair, Robyn Denholm, will bring business expertise to the forefront of the company's board and serve as a key counterweight to CEO Elon Musk, even if it's not the most exciting choice, analysts and experts said Thursday CNBC. 19659002] div> div.group> p: first child "/>

Denholm is the Chief Financial Officer of the Australian telecommunications company Telstra, where she previously served as Chief Operations Officer. She announced Wednesday that she had left the company and would focus solely on her role as Tesla's chairman. Prior to Telstra, Denholm held senior positions at network systems companies and served as National Financial Manager for Toyota.

Denholm has been on Tesla's board since 201

4, which many said was the only real drawback to the appointment. Investors and analysts hoped for a truly independent outside chairman who could scrutinize Musk's often wild antics.

Musk's controversial Twitter led to the SEC's fraud and subsequent billing, which demanded a new chairman in the first place.

"I could imagine 10 outside people who could be chairpersons, but I do not really know if that would make sense from an ivory tower," Baird analyst Ben Kallo told CNBC. "We all want a superstar – at some point Larry Ellison or Sandberg of 1945 – and even if that sounds good on paper, this is probably a smarter, more modest decision."

Denholm is as independent as a current insider will, Kallo said. Under a hand-picked board that includes Elon's brother Kimbal Musk, Denholm is relatively distant. It's also unlikely that it makes headlines, as Musk often does.

"She was always a voice of good logic and reason [on the board] and helped balance everything … anyone who would easily fit Elon," Kallo said. "Can she check Elon? I'm not sure, and I'm not sure anyone could check him, maybe his brother, but I think if he had his brother as chairman, everyone would be in his arms."

Tesla has two more independent directors appointed under the SEC Settlement. The selections could shed light on the immediate impact of Denholm as chairman.

"I think they have to show that there is a kind of new world order in Tesla – stricter filters in corporate communications, more objective, well rounded business decisions," said Consumer Edge Research analyst Jamie Albertine to CNBC. "I just hope that they are aware of the gravity of the ever-increasing question of the board's greater independence from management."


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