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Tesla has appointed a replacement for Elon Musk as chairman, nearly six weeks since the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ousted him from the role, and has appointed Robyn Denholm as its new chairwoman from within the ranks of the board of directors. Denholm, who is currently chief financial officer of the Australian telecommunications company Telstra, starts in six months. Musk and his brother Kimbal remain as non-independent directors on the nine-member board, and Musk, of course, is still CEO of the company.
Denholm, 55, joined the Tesla board in August 2014 as an independent director—one of seven such directors who are not employed or do business with Tesla—and is also chair of the audit committee and a member of the company's compensation committee. She is currently based in Sydney with Telstra; she previously worked in Silicon Valley for Juniper Networks and Sun Microsystems after a seven-year finance career at Toyota in Australia. An October story in the Financial Times had claimed James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, would be named chairman. Murdoch still serves on the board.
On September 29, Tesla and Musk settled with the SEC, with the CEO and the company each paying a $20 million fine, after the agency charged Musk with civil fraud for publishing misleading tweets about an unsecured financing deal. Musk is technically still chairman but must exit the position by next Tuesday, the 45-day deadline established in the settlement, and he cannot be reappointed as chairman for three years. Tesla must also appoint two new independent directors to the board at a later date.
When the SEC announced it would file charges, Tesla's board of directors said they were "fully confident in Elon, his integrity, and his leadership of the company" despite incidents in which he smoked marijuana on a webcasted radio show and taunted the SEC on Twitter. In late October, the company posted a quarterly profit for the first time in two years.
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