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Musical chairs at Tesla: Elon Musk out, Robyn Denholm in

Published: 08 November 2018

 Robyn Denholm succeeds Musk
 Already one of two women on board 
 55-year-old takes up chairmanship 

Tesla has plumped for an inside appointment to succeed Elon Musk as its next board chair. The maverick Musk has been forced to acede some control after a series of run-ins with regulators and investors.

The new chair is Robyn Denholm, a 55-year-old who's one of two women already on the board of Tesla Inc. She has broad experience in the automotive and digital sectors, having worked at Toyota, Sun Microsystems and Australian telecoms giant Telstra, whom she joined as CFO only weeks ago.

Her role starts immediately, but she plans to join Tesla full-time once her six-month notice period at Telstra is complete.

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'I believe in this company, I believe in its mission and I look forward to helping Elon and the Tesla team achieve sustainable profitability and drive long-term shareholder value,' said Denholm in a statement.

Why did Elon Musk step down as Tesla chairman?

Musk, 47, has been pressured into relinquishing his position as chairman but will remain as CEO in day-to-day control of the electric car company.

Pressure mounted after a series of spats (often on Twitter), culminating in his post claiming he had secured funding to buy out investors at $420 a share to take Tesla private. This sparked a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) finance regulator in the US, who insisted on tighter governance at the pioneering EV car maker.

However, some observers are already saying that plumping for an inside appointment may mean she won't have the appetite to challenge Musk's wilder moves. '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,' warned Stephen Diamond, a law professor at Santa Clara University. 'And, of course, that was the whole point of the SEC settlement.'

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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet