When selecting Robyn Denholm to keep Elon Musk under control, Tesla Inc.'s board of directors was the most important Managing Director, who joined the financial departments of multinational companies. Those who know her say their insignificant methods can be exactly what Tesla needs.
"Everything about her is sensible, reasonable and warm. I'm not surprised she got a job," said Scott McNealy, co-founder and former chairman of Sun Microsystems. "If Elon listens to her, she will be much more successful."
Tesla is chairwoman, Denholm, 55, responsible for detaining the celebrity CEO, Musk, while managing the electric car manufacturer, which is still in the bulk stage and vulnerable to financial obstacles. While Tesla is just celebrating a quarter of blasts – a rare profit, many analysts expect a further increase in capital before the company is firmly grounded.
Denholm began his audit and accounting career with Arthur Andersen and left the firm for a position in the finance department of Australian subsidiary Toyota. She joined Sun in 1996 and has been there for 11 years, including a position in the top lead group of a computer company. She refused to be an interview.
Musk, 47, is the classic founder of Silicon Valley, an eccentric visionary who is very focused on products. Supervisors are often Chief Executives or lead companies in other strategic roles. The chairman of the financial affairs is not so common – though in Tesla's case it could really be a force: the relationship with the financial community is exactly what the carmaker is trying to improve.
"He seems to have a superior competence in financial communications," said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a management expert who teaches at Yale School of Management. "The probable choice, I think they made the best choice, its strengths are not his and vice versa."
Yet some see Denholm as too close to Musk. Since 2014, Tesla's independent director, he has been a part of the council that has not been able to prevent the strenuous actions of the CEO this year, including his troubled August tweets, about trying to make the company private. An agreement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on the matter has stipulated that Tesla should reinforce the album, which has long been criticized for being too close to its billionaires.
Denholm "represents a potential spark to change," said Gene Luns Ventures Gene Munster. But Tesla has to continue with other activities, including overturning more than half of the board, to bring directors with manufacturing experience, he said.
After Sun, Denholm worked with Juniper Networks, a manufacturer of networking equipment, where she was executive vice president and chief of finance and operations. Its technological background is beneficial: Tesla cars are constantly receiving new features through over-the-air software upgrades and company batteries are increasingly being sold to energy companies. Denholm also served on ABB's management board, a Swedish-Swiss multinational company that works closely with engineering networks.
"Robyn is very clever, tenacious and ethical," said William F. Meehan, senior strategist at Stanford Graduate School of Business, who was director of Juniper while she worked there.
Denholm joined Telstra, the largest Australian telecommunications company, in January 2017 as chief operating officer and took over as Chief Financial Officer on October 1. Her decision to step away from the role of the CFO so surprised so much; just last month told the Australian media through a spokesman that it was not in contradiction with what Tesla presides. Denholm, who is married and has grown up children, lives in Sydney, and it is unclear whether he will return to California for the work of his chairman.
"Robyn is fearless, but very practical, if he believes in someone he is fighting – it's not a predominance," said Joe Pollard, former director of marketing for Telstra, in an interview. "It always focuses on how we are going to solve this problem." Nothing is never neglected and will always talk to customers, entrepreneurs and employees. "
Like Silicon Valley, the business world in Australia has a long way to go about gender equality, and Denholm is passionate about getting more women into science, engineering, and engineering by setting up a scholarship on behalf of the University of Southern South Wales.
"It's not part of the culture, and yet there's no naive parachute from outside," said Yale Sonnenfeld. "It's a rare stream of good governance reports."