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Whitacre Won’t Rule Out Staying on as GM CEO

Automaker plans to pay back government TARP loan by June 2010, but won’t set IPO date.

by on Dec.15, 2009

The search is on, but could Ed Whitacre, Jr. be ready to turn his Acting CEO title into a more permanent one?

The search is on, but could Ed Whitacre, Jr. be ready to turn his Acting CEO title into a more permanent one?

For a man who admits getting lost in Detroit’s maze-like Renaissance Center, the corporate headquarters of General Motors, Chairman and acting CEO Ed Whitacre is quickly finding his way around the troubled automaker.

And he appears to like what he’s seeing.  In his first face-to-face meeting with reporters since the ouster of former CEO Fritz Henderson, early this month, the tall and lanky Texan said GM is actively looking for a permanent replacement for the chief executive position, but Whitacre pointedly declined to rule out the possibility that he could drop the “Acting” from his expanding list of titles and stay on as GM’s CEO.

“We’re looking for someone who can be a leader of this company,” the former ATT boss explained, adding that the next GM CEO wouldn’t necessarily have to come from the auto industry, nor would that person have to be a CEO now, but it would take “an inspirational leader who’s familiar with a big company.”

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How long might the search take?  It’s only gotten underway, said Whitacre and, “I don’t have any definite timetable.  Not next week, not a year.”  A challenge, the executive said, is that “we can’t pay much” because of a federally-mandated pay cap on companies that took a government bailout.  But anyone seeking the CEO post is likely to be motivated not just by compensation, “but by leading a big company,” especially one with the chance to rebuild its former grandeur.

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