Tesla Names New Chairwoman as It Seeks a More Stable Image

Tesla Names New Chairwoman as It Seeks a More Stable Image

Tesla named Robyn Denholm, an independent board member since 2014 and a longtime technology and telecommunications executive, as its new chairwoman on Wednesday night, as the company tries to put behind it regulatory troubles and concerns about its stability under Elon Musk, its colorful but erratic co-founder.

The electric-car company said that Ms. Denholm would replace Mr. Musk in that position. Mr. Musk will remain Tesla’s chief executive. Ms. Denholm is currently the chief financial officer of Telstra, which dominates telecommunications in Australia.

The move to replace Mr. Musk as chairman was part of a settlement reached with securities regulators in the United States in September to deal with the fallout from his declaration on Twitter in August that he had secured funding for a private buyout of the company. That claim quickly fell into doubt. (He later explained in a blog post that discussions with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund led him to believe that it had both money and enthusiasm for such a deal.)

Under that settlement, Tesla agreed to add two more independent directors to its board and to name someone else as chairman, splitting those responsibilities from Mr. Musk’s post as chief executive. The company was also required to set up a permanent committee to monitor Mr. Musk’s public declarations, including his tweets.

Tesla’s new chairwoman has an extensive background in technology. Before her current position at Telstra, Ms. Denholm was an executive at Juniper Networks, which makes computer networking equipment, for about a decade.

Tesla said Ms. Denholm would step down from her roles at Telstra once her six-month notice period is complete.

Mr. Musk has galvanized investors and the public imagination with his sleek electric cars and his big dreams for space travel and other ambitions. But his public declarations increasingly unnerved Tesla shareholders and the board directors who represent them. Production problems at Tesla only added to those concerns.

In addition to his tweet about a buyout, Mr. Musk got into a nasty social media battle with a British diver involved in the daring rescue over the summer of 12 boys in a flooded cave in Thailand — a battle he had to quickly walk back.

In August, Mr. Musk told The New York Times that this year “has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,” in part because of the pressure of running Tesla, and that he sometimes took the insomnia drug Ambien to sleep. Some board members worried the drug was instead contributing to his late-night Twitter sessions.

In September, he also appeared to briefly smoke marijuana during an interview with Joe Rogan, a comedian. (The interview took place in California, where recreational marijuana use is legal.)

The settlement reached in September with the Securities and Exchange Commission was intended to lay some of those concerns to rest. Last month, Tesla posted positive financial results, suggesting it is beginning to resolve some of its problems.

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