Telstra CFO Robyn Denholm quits after 5 weeks to become chair of Tesla

08 November 2018 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Robyn Denholm, CFO of Telstra for only five weeks, is leaving the company to become chair of electric car company Tesla Motors in place of Elon Musk.

She will officially remain with Telstra – which she joined in January 2017, firstly as COO – until 6 May 2019, and Tesla says it will give her support as chair of the board until then. Denholm has been a member of the Tesla board since 2014 – longer than her association with Telstra.

After 21 months as COO, Denholm became CFO of Telstra only on 1 October 2018. She replaced Warwick Bray when Telstra CEO Andy Penn decided to recast the leadership. Penn announced the departure of former Nokia and Microsoft executive Stephen Elop at the same time, along with group general counsel and the group executive of media.

“We are sorry to see Robyn leave Telstra,” said Penn today. “We know that it has become increasingly difficult to balance her responsibilities as Telstra CFO with the increased activity of the Tesla board.”

Before Telstra, Denholm was CFO of Juniper Networks in Sunnyvale, California for nine years, having previously spent 11 years as senior VP for strategic planning at Sun Microsystems in Santa Clara. The Tesla role will take her back to Silicon Valley.

Denholm holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Sydney and a master’s degree in commerce from the University of New South Wales.

“We are undertaking a search for a new chief financial officer and will provide an update on a replacement appointment as soon as possible,” said Penn.

Musk will remain CEO of Tesla Motors but he was forced out of the chairmanship as part of a settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which had charged him with fraud after he tweeted about a plan to take the company private.  

Mask is banned from the chairmanship of Tesla for three years and Denholm has said that she will be a full-time chair. She said: “I believe in this company, I believe in its mission and I look forward to helping Elon and the Tesla team achieve sustainable profitability and drive long-term shareholder value.”