The ‘Rational’ Businesswoman Picked to Temper Tesla’s Mercurial Musk


(Bloomberg) — In opting for Robyn Denholm to stay Elon Musk in take a look at, Tesla Inc. picked a numbers-first govt who climbed the ranks of tech firms. Those that know her say her no-nonsense tactics could also be precisely what the mercurial CEO must get out of his personal manner.

“The entirety about her is rational, affordable, and heat. I’m no longer stunned she were given the activity,” Scott McNealy, the co-founder and previous chairman of Solar Microsystems Inc., mentioned in a telephone interview. “If Elon listens to her, he’ll be far more a success.”

As Tesla’s chairman, Denholm, 55, will likely be accountable for the tall duties of reining within the superstar CEO Musk and guiding an electric-car maker that’s nonetheless in a section of high-priced growth and liable to monetary setbacks. Whilst Tesla simply celebrated a blowout quarter through which it posted an extraordinary benefit, many analysts and traders suspect that additional capital will increase might be wanted prior to the corporate is on company footing.

Main the rate to step up oversight of Musk might be in particular difficult. Tesla’s board, which Denholm has been on since 2014, didn’t turn out to be efficient in controlling a few of his worst impulses this summer time. Her ascendancy to the position of chairman used to be brought about through Musk’s run-in with the U.S. Securities and Change Fee over his problematic take-private tweets.

Denholm started her occupation at audit and accounting services and products at Arthur Andersen, and left the company for a place within the finance division of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Australian subsidiary. She joined Solar in 1996 and used to be there for 11 years, together with a place within the pioneering laptop corporate’s best management workforce. She declined to be interviewed.

‘Supremely Competent’

Musk, 47, is a vintage Silicon Valley founder sort, an eccentric visionary who may be very a lot concerned about merchandise. The chairmen that oversee them regularly had been CEOs themselves, or led firms in different strategic roles. A md with a finance background isn’t as not unusual — regardless that in Tesla’s case that in truth generally is a power: rapport with the monetary neighborhood is exactly what the carmaker is looking for to toughen.

“She appears to be supremely competent in monetary communications,” mentioned Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, knowledgeable on management who teaches on the Yale Faculty of Control. “Of the most probably alternatives, I feel they made the most efficient pick out. Her strengths don’t seem to be his and vice versa.”

Nonetheless, some see Denholm as being too with reference to Musk. A agreement reached with the SEC in September stipulated that Tesla reinforce a board lengthy criticized for being too intently aligned with its billionaire chief.

Denholm “supplies a possible spark for alternate,” Loup Ventures’ Gene Munster mentioned in a observe. However Tesla must observe thru with different movements, together with turning over part of the board to herald administrators with production revel in, he mentioned.

No Pushover

After Solar, Denholm labored at network-equipment maker Juniper Networks Inc., the place she used to be an govt vice chairman and leader of finance and operations. Her era background is an asset: Tesla’s automobiles continuously obtain new options by means of over-the-air tool updates, and the corporate’s batteries are an increasing number of being offered to software firms. Denholm additionally served at the board of ABB Ltd., the Swedish-Swiss multinational that works intently with utilities.

“Robyn may be very sensible, tough-minded and moral,” mentioned William F. Meehan, a lecturer in strategic control on the Stanford Graduate Faculty of Trade who used to be a director of Juniper whilst she labored there.

Denholm joined Telstra, Australia’s biggest telephone corporate, in January 2017 as leader of operations and took at the position of CFO on Oct. 1. Her determination to step down from the CFO position so briefly stunned many; simply ultimate month, she informed Australian media thru a spokesperson that she wasn’t in competition for the Tesla chairman’s activity. Denholm, who’s married and has grownup kids, lives in Sydney, and it’s no longer transparent if she’s going to transfer again to California for the chairman activity.

“Robyn is courageous however very sensible. If she believes in one thing she fights for it — she’s no longer a pushover,” mentioned Joe Pollard, the previous leader advertising officer of Telstra, in an interview. “She is all the time concerned about ‘how are we going to mend this drawback.’ Not anything is ever left unsaid and she’s going to all the time discuss up for purchasers, the trade and workers.”

Like Silicon Valley, the trade international in Australia has a protracted strategy to move when it comes to gender equality, and Denholm is keen about getting extra ladies into science, era and engineering, setting up a scholarship in her title on the College of New South Wales.

“She’s no longer a part of the bro tradition, and but isn’t anyone naïve parachuting in from the out of doors,” Yale’s Sonnenfeld mentioned. “It’s an extraordinary ray of excellent governance information.”

To touch the journalists in this tale: Dana Hull in San Francisco at [email protected];Anders Melin in New York at [email protected]

To touch the editors accountable for this tale: Craig Trudell at [email protected], Ville Heiskanen, Sam Nagarajan

For extra articles like this, please seek advice from us at bloomberg.com

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.



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