Denholm, Tesla’s Pick for New Chairwoman: Exactly What the Company Needs

Analysts and experts told CNBC last Thursday that even if Robyn Denholm, Tesla’s newly appointed chairwoman may not be the most exciting pick, she will bring business expertise to Tesla’s board leadership and serve as a needed offset to CEO Elon Musk.

It was Musk’s controversial tweeting on August 7, about taking the company private in the first place that brought on the SEC fraud charges which were followed by the authorized ordering of a new chairperson.

Denholm who is Chief Financial Officer at Australian telecom company Telstra serving previously as their Chief Operations Officer, announced last Wednesday her departure and will focus solely on her new position at Tesla’s helm. Her prior experiences before Telstra were executive positions with networking companies and as a national finance manager for Toyota.

Although Denholm has served on Tesla’s board, which includes Elon’s brother, Kimball Musk, since 2014, she is relatively removed and as independent as a current insider can get. This is what investors and analysts were hoping for but from an outsider, not an insider.

Baird analyst Ben Kallo told CNBC, “She’s always been a voice of good logic and reason [on the board] and helped balance out… anyone that would just go with the flow with Elon,”  But, “can she check Elon? I’m not sure, and I’m not sure if anyone could check him. Maybe his brother, but I think if they had his brother as chairperson everyone would be up in arms.”

“I think what they have to demonstrate is there’s a sort of new world order within Tesla — more stringent filters on corporate communications, more objective, well-rounded decisions around corporate governance,” Consumer Edge Research analyst Jamie Albertine told CNBC. “I just hope that they’re aware of the gravity of the bigger looming question: the broader independence of the board of directors relative to management.”

There was not a whole lot of fanfare to Denholm’s appointment which is so the opposite of Musk’s and Tesla’s recent volatility. But that’s what’s needed Albertine said, “…a more typical, more traditional approach to communications with the market.”

And investors and analysts are all hoping Denholm will be able to meet those expectations as well as strengthening Tesla’s financials which has yet to establish sustainable profitability.

 “I think it’s a tall ask…,” Rohan Williamson, professor of finance at Georgetown University and expert in corporate governance said. “Her background seems to suggest that she should be up to the task.”