Whitacre Picks Whitacre to Run GM

By Brendan Moore

01.26.2010

Ed Whitacre, Jr. - GM Media RelationsYes, Ed Whitacre pulled a Dick Cheney yesterday.

You will recall that when G.W. Bush asked Dick Cheney to find a vice-president for his administration, Cheney looked around and decided that Dick Cheney was the best choice.

Whitacre says that the General Motors board offered him the position, and, shucks, he was hardly ever thinking about being CEO to begin with, but that’s what the board wanted. So, he pretty much had to take the job.

Well, maybe.

Regardless of how it happened, it happened, and now Whitacre is leading GM as both chairman and CEO. He said in his press conference yesterday that he intends to keep both titles as long as he is at GM.

Apparently the board is unconcerned about the accountability issues from a corporate governance perspective that might rear their heads with Whitacre owning both titles. Many auto industry analysts feel that the board was keen to minimize any further disruptions to the GM management team, and thus Whitacre became the easy choice since he was already in the position as interim CEO.

Whitacre opined yesterday during the press conference that, “This place needs some stability. I guess that’s me.”

Whitacre is GM’s third CEO in only ten months.

For the record, I think Whitacre is a quick study, and will probably do a good job as CEO, provided he doesn’t tarry too long there; my only minor irritation is that it now seems that its been the plan for a few months now for Whitacre to get the job, so why the bad theatre of a CEO search?

The smart bet is that Chris Liddell, GM’s new finance head, will succeed Whitacre when he does leave. Liddell came to GM from Microsoft, where he was CFO. Whitacre sidestepped that speculation, saying only that such a decision was up to the board.

Whitacre said a few other things yesterday; namely, that he feels GM’s senior executives are a good bunch and he doesn’t see any changes there, but he does see some more changes coming in middle management.

He also said that, despite all the reports to the contrary, there is no deal for Saab still, and that the Swedish subsidiary is still on its wind-down activity track.

He also reiterated his previous statement that GM would pay the federal government back $8.1 billion in June of this year, and, that GM plans to issue an IPO as soon as fourth quarter of this year.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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3 Comments

  1. I think it was obvious he wanted the job from the start, and he greased the way for Fritz Henderson’s departure in addition to campaigning for the job.

    I’m sure whomever interviewed for the job picked up on his desire for it right away, and said to themselves, “No way am I taking this job with him remaining as Chairman. It’s going to be hard enough to get GM back on track without this guy smiling at me while he’s setting traps for me all over the place.”

    I am a senior person at a corporation, and this is how these things work, and after he made the job unattractive enough to every other serious contender, he says to the board, “We’re out of candidates, any ideas?”, with the answer obvious to everyone.

    But, I’m okay with that, because I think he’s done a good job, and I think he might be just what GM needs, as long as he keeps that meglomania in check along the way. He’s a good manager, he sees the big picture, and he’s not from GM, so I think he will be what GM needs right now, and NOT what they need two years from now if they’re back in the black. So I’m okay with him being the CEO although I’m not completely okay with him being the CEO and the Chairman.

  2. GM didn’t need any more changes right now, I think they made the right decision, all things taken into account.

  3. A set-up all the way.

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