Will The Next CEO of GM Be An Auto Industry Outsider?
It seems to be going that way…
By Brendan Moore
Now that the dust has cleared from yesterday’s resignation of Fritz Henderson as CEO of General Motors, and it has become obvious that Henderson didn’t jump, but rather, was pushed, the speculation about a successor is rampant.
Ed Whitacre, the chairman of the GM’s newly-active (hyperactive, perhaps) board of directors, and, the guy that did most of the pushing of Fritz Henderson, is known to favor bringing in an auto industry outsider as the next CEO of GM.
Henderson struggled from the start of his CEO tenure with the perception that he was part of the old GM, and therefore would be unable to shake up the company enough to achieve its new business goals. He was a “lifer” at GM, a company man who followed his mentor, Rick Wagoner, the previous CEO, right to the top of GM. Unfortunately, the knock against Henderson was always that he was “Rick Wagoner 2.0”, and he has now followed Wagoner right out the door, via a forced resignation.
Whitacre, the board chairman and now the interim CEO until a successor can be found, is from outside the auto industry himself, and the chatter in Detroit is that he is keen to bring in someone from outside the fairly insular, and somewhat incestuous, auto industry. The template Whitacre has in mind to reproduce is the one over at Ford, where things have turned around considerably since Alan Mulally was hired as CEO from Boeing.
A great many people forecasted the company’s imminent doom when Mulally was hired at Ford, saying the company needed a steady, experienced hand from the auto industry, not someone completely new to the industry. But, instead of going to hell in a handcart as those naysayers predicted, Ford has instead emerged under Mulally as the Detroit auto company that actually seems to have a clue. They are also the only one that has not needed government loans to stay afloat. The hiring of Mulally now looks like a masterstroke, as he has not yet put a foot down wrong in his quest to turn Ford around.
Whatever happens, I have a feeling it will happen soon. Whitacre seems to be in a hurry to get GM going again, and he also seems to be a guy who makes decisions quickly. I don’t believe he wants to be CEO himself, and will look to hand over those reins to his new hire as soon as possible.
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