These shares would be worth $US19 million at the current share price.
It is a long way from her childhood in Sydney suburb Milperra, where Ms Denholm used to do the books for her parent’s service station and tinker with cars as a hobby.
Tesla’s shares kept rising even as the company announced a $US2.3 billion share sale on Thursday to fund its global expansion just weeks after Mr Musk ruled out such a move.
It was just the latest backflip by the most polarising company on the US stockmarket.
Tesla has made and lost fortunes for investors over the last year, depending on whether they were holding shares as an investor, or shorting the stock to try and make money if it tanked.
Tesla shares have risen more than 400 per cent since June last year.
Some analysts saw the funding backflip as a typical Musk about-face, although a welcome one given the billions the company needs to finance factories in Shanghai and Europe and the US to meet growing demand for its electric vehicles.
But as Ms Denholm pointed out in a rare interview last October, Tesla wouldn’t be where it is today if its founder did not listen to wise counsel when it is offered.
“Any CEO who actually can continue to grow a company like Elon has with Tesla is going to listen to all points of view that are going to help the company move forward,” she told CNBC.
Ms Denholm was recruited to the Tesla board to head its audit committee in 2014. She brought a unique mix of skills gained across the automotive industry at Toyota in Australia, and some of Silicon Valley’s top companies, Sun Microsystems and Juniper Networks.
Ms Denholm already owned a Tesla car when she got the invite, but it was more than an enthusiasm for cars that attracted her to the job.
“The exciting thing at Tesla is that it is a company that is disrupting whole industries rather than just a specific technology, and it is a very fast moving environment,” she once said of her excitement at taking the role.
But it has not been easy.
Ms Denholm made up her mind to opt for Tesla rather than Telstra amid controversy as Musk was forced to step down as chairman following a regulatory investigation into his tweet in 2018 stating he had secured financing to take the company private.
Last month, Tesla board members other than Musk settled a shareholder lawsuit over the company’s acquisition of another company owned by Mr Musk, SolarCity Corp.
And the company’s announcement of the capital raising this week included the disclosure that the US regulator had issued a subpoena in December seeking information regarding certain financial data and contracts, which include its regular financing arrangements. Tesla did not offer any further clarification of the matter.
It threatens to be yet another challenge for Ms Denholm, who is the head of Tesla’s audit committee.
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.