Tesla hires new chair as Elon Musk steps down as part of SEC deal

Emily Nicolle
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Denholm has been a board member of Tesla for four years (Source: Getty)

Tesla has appointed Robyn Denholm, finance chief and head of strategy at Australian telecoms firm Telstra and existing Tesla board member, as its new chair after Elon Musk was forced to step down as part of a settlement deal with the US securities watchdog.

Denholm will leave her role at Telstra in six months time, to sit at the helm of Tesla on a full-time basis.

As Musk remains chief executive of the electric car manufacturer and a sitting board member, Tesla said he intends to "be a resource to Robyn" and provide her with advice and support in her new role.

The news comes two days after the deadline for Musk to resign as the company's chair had passed, after Tesla was given 45 days to find his replacement.

In late September, Musk and Tesla were each fined $20m (£15.3m) by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, after Musk tweeted plans to take the company private at $420 per share with "funding secured".

It later transpired he had not secured any funding, nor had he sufficiently informed Tesla's board or the relevant authorities for such a deal.

Musk will not be allowed to return to his role as chairman of Tesla for three years.

"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," Denholm said in a statement.

Musk cited Robyn's time as a Tesla board member as helping Tesla to become profitable in its most recent quarter, as well as her time in tech and auto industries in preparing her for the role.

It remains to be seen whether Tesla can achieve profitability again, with some casting doubt on its future.

Prominent Tesla short-seller David Einhorn, who runs the US hedge fund Greenhorn Capital, said earlier this week that he believes the last three months were "as good as it gets" for the carmaker.

"While Tesla expects to make 65,000 Model 3s in the fourth quarter, we believe they have exhausted most of the demand from customers who can afford the highest price versions of the Model 3," he said in an earnings call.

He also highlighted Tesla's recent legal and production woes, adding: "Tesla is contending with a litany of competitive, regulatory, human resources, vehicle quality and capital structure issues."