A fortune at stake as Robyn Denholm negotiates Tesla privatisation
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A fortune at stake as Robyn Denholm negotiates Tesla privatisation

Telstra’s alleged CEO-in-waiting Robyn Denholm, passed a big test with the telco last Thursday when she managed to front up to its full-year results in Melbourne alongside Andy Penn’s other direct reports.

Telstra's COO Robyn Denholm

Telstra's COO Robyn Denholm

Photo: Ben Rushton

Denholm’s board duties at Elon Musk’s Tesla piled up during the week to include joining the committee that will negotiate with Musk about the proposed privatisation of the electric car maker and there was no assurance she would be at Telstra's results.

And in case anyone was wondering about the size of the task she has been handed at Tesla, Musk cleared up any doubt with his astoundingly candid interview with The New York Times, which was published in time to torch Tesla's share price on the US markets on Friday.

Elon Musk and his girlfriend Grimes.

Elon Musk and his girlfriend Grimes.

Photo: AP

He isn’t in need of fresh investors; he needs therapy.

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And let’s face it, Denholm probably has a lot more at stake at Tesla than at Telstra where she took home remuneration worth just over $2 million in her first full year at the telco.

Tesla board members get showered in share options, which must be adding up for Denholm after four years with the company.

Denholm exercised 122,000 options in 2014 and 2015 alone at around $US260 each (which converts to one share).

Musk’s notorious tweet last week proposed to privatise Tesla at $US420 a share.

Denholm would be making a profit of just under $US20 million ($27 million) on these shares alone if she still holds them, which adds up to a lot of distraction from her day job.

Illustration: John Shakespeare

Illustration: John Shakespeare

It is near impossible to say how much exactly is at stake for Denholm. She sold a parcel of options last year for a $US1 million profit but the stock exchange filings provided under SEC rules are not designed for investor clarity.

Wink and a nudge

CBD isn’t into conspiracy theories, so we’re not reading anything into the fact that PM Malcolm Turnbull stepped on a NEG hornet’s nest the same week that Lachlan Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch hit town with their respective wives.

Who cares about the drinks that Lachlan held last week with some of News Corp’s senior journos and editors at his Sydney estate, Le Manoir.

Lachlan Murdoch arrives with Sarah at the annual Keith Murdoch Oration at the State Library of Victoria.

Lachlan Murdoch arrives with Sarah at the annual Keith Murdoch Oration at the State Library of Victoria.

Photo: Darrian Traynor

CBD hears that The Sunday Telegraph’s editor Mick Carroll, attended the drinks - and presumably The Daily Tele's  Chris Dore.

The thoroughly moderate Sky News team were apparently represented by Kieran Gilbert, David Speers, Peta Credlin and Ross Cameron.

Lachlan and Peta would have had so much more to talk about than Turnbull, right?

Top serve

What’s the ultimate accessory for a politician with everything? A $175,000 Bentley.

The Liberal MP John Alexander’s 1996 Azure was quietly placed on the market last month — no sale as yet — and quickly came to the attention of sharp-eyed party operators. Alexander, the member for Bennelong,  purchased the $4.7 million Iona Park estate in the Southern Highlands, and says the car is a bargain.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and John Alexander during the election night function at the Ryde Leagues Club last year.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and John Alexander during the election night function at the Ryde Leagues Club last year.

Photo: Alex ellinghausen

“This Bentley Azure represents a rare opportunity to acquire a most desirable collectable,” John from Bondi writes in the listing.

“Included in the price is 12 nights accommodation at the quintessential Southern Highlands estate Iona Park valued at approximately $20,000 ... this package now represents extraordinary value.”

The Azure, described as more rare and far superior to a normal Bentley, is “the ultimate expression of hand crafted Bentley Motorcars,” Alexander writes.

“My Azure has been regularly driven to the Southern Highlands and Canberra and therefore is ready to be enjoyed with full confidence.”

Alexander, a former tennis champion, has been one of the government’s most vocal advocates for action on housing affordability.

That led one Coalition staffer yesterday to quip: “its a beautiful car, but it’s about as expensive as my house.”

Sharing's caring

We all know that they do things a little differently at AMP.

Whether it’s having your chairwoman tamper with an independent report to ASIC, watching a senior executive self immolate in front of the bank royal commission, or watching your replacement chairman completely junk the corporate governance framework - it’s just another day at the AMP office.

So what should we make of a flurry of change of director’s interests notices lodged with the ASX on Friday?

New chairman David Murray, and his new recruit ASIC tragic John O’Sullivan both picked up 2,000 shares last Monday at $3.45 a share.

It was the third director’s notice that really caught CBD’s eye. Departing director Patricia Akopiantz disposed of 4,000 shares at $3.45 each in off market transfers to O’Sullivan and Murray.

“The share trades were made to facilitate the acquisition by those directors of the director’s share qualification in accordance with clause 53.4 of the constitution of AMP Ltd.”

And what does Clause 53.4 of the AMP constitution tell us?

“A Director will cease to be eligible to hold the office of Director if he or she does not have a Qualification Interest in at least 2,000 Shares at all times after the period of 60 days from the date on which the person was elected or appointed a Director.”

Murray and O’Sullivan became AMP directors on June 25, so it looks like they were both - technically at least - facing being dumped from the AMP board if they did not get some shares quickly.

And for some reason, they they needed to borrow them from another director. Only at AMP.

The good news is that Akopiantz was happy to help them out. As former chairman Simon McKeon can attest, the AMP boardroom has not always displayed such fraternity.

Rap sheet

ASIC’s new deputy chair Daniel Crennan was happy to give a Parliamentary committee charged with the oversight of the corporate cop a brief jog through his impressive resume.

But it was the former silk’s proud proclamation that he was part of the legal team that represented Dick Pratt’s interests in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s cartel action against Visy Industries in 2007 that piqued CBD's interest.

Crennan, who took silk in 2016, was then a talented junior working with then junior barrister turned star silk Philip Crutchfield and the formidable combination of Jeff Sher, QC and now Federal Court judge Jonathan Beach, QC.

Crennan also skited at the hearing about his work for Melbourne businessman John Elliott in regards to the former Carlton Football Club chairman’s push to have findings of insolvent trading overturned.

CBD was disappointed that Crennan didn’t mention that he has seen the entire holy trinity of famed disgraced Australian businessmen, citing Alan Bond given he was part of the legal team that represented The Bell Group in its legal stoush with Westpac.

Not that having these clients on his CV is is a bad thing. It’s very common for talented barristers to work for wealthy business people in strife. And many would say the fact that the young Crennan was so in demand points to his skill as a barrister.

Follow CBD on Twitter. Got a tip? ckruger@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Colin Kruger is a business reporter. He joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999 as its technology editor. Other roles have included the Herald's deputy business editor and online business editor.

Kylar is The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age's CBD columnist. He recently covered federal politics, business and NSW politics for News Corp.

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