Tesla announces Australian telecom executive to replace Musk as board chair


Tesla has announced a new board chair to comply with the compromise that the company made with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) order, in which founder and CEO Elon Musk will step down from that role. Musk has been in hot water with the SEC after his August tweet claiming that he had secured funding to take the company private, which apparently was a significant overstatement.

The EV, battery and solar company has appointed Robyn Denholm, who is currently the chief financial officer and head of strategy at Telstra, Australia’s largest telecom company, to step in as chair. Denholm is also chair of Tesla’s Audit Committee, a role that she will vacate for the next six months while she wraps things up at Telstra, and after this six months she will become Tesla’s chair.

Denholm has been on the Tesla board as an independent director since 2014, and has additionally served in leadership roles at a range of other technology companies including Juniper Networks and Sun Microsystems, as well as in finance management roles at Toyota.

This news dispels widely circulated rumors that British media executive James Murdoch would become Tesla’s chair. pv magazine never reported this, as the rumors were not substantiated.

The also comes two weeks after Tesla reported its first quarterly profit in several years, on the backs of a massive scaling of production of its Model 3. The 80,000 EVs that the company cranked out in Q3 are also likely to make it the world’s largest EV maker by volume this year, but this title has some nuance as BYD – which produced more vehicles in 2017 than Tesla – also makes electric busses with much larger batteries, as well as plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Tesla’s energy storage business is also booming, but along the way the company’s position in the solar market has taken back seat. With Tesla prioritizing selling combined solar and battery systems and focusing on sales through its stores instead of the more aggressive sales approaches of other third-party solar companies, Sunrun has now outpaced Tesla as the nation’s largest residential solar provider.

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