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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.


Q&A General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre

Yes, yes and no. Taciturn Whitacre keeps it short and sweet.

by on Dec.08, 2009

GM Chairman Ed Whitacre, Jr. keeps things short and simple during his first meeting with the media.

GM Chairman Ed Whitacre, Jr. keeps things short and simple during his first media meeting.

Though he insists he likes cars, Ed Whitacre, Jr. is not your classic “car guy,” which to some is a good thing.  Trained as a telecommunications engineer, the 68-year-old Texan rose to the top at SBC, one of the smaller “Baby Bells” spun off after the break-up of AT&T, eventually staging the highly unlikely takeover of SBC’s one-time parent.

Equally unlikely was the call Whitaker got from the White House task force.  A one-time top fundraiser for former President George W. Bush, Whitaker was named head of the newly-reconstituted Board of Directors following General Motors’ July 10 re-emergence from bankruptcy.

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Whitaker has little patience for those who don’t deliver, according to those who know him, something he demonstrated, a week ago, when he led the ouster of GM’s popular CEO Fritz Henderson.  For the time being, at least, Whitaker is serving as Acting CEO while a search begins for Henderson’s replacement.

In his first interaction with the media since the GM shake-up, Whitaker today held a brief, 38-minute webchat with journalists, a digital conversation that underscored his way of keeping things short and simple – if not always providing the necessary details or allowing follow up queries for clarification.  Here’s a transcript of the conversation:


Who Pushed Henderson Out At GM?

GM CEO “resigns,” but did he have any other choice?

by on Dec.01, 2009

Take this job and shove it?  Did GM CEO Fritz Henderson quit, or was he "resigned"?

Take this job and shove it? Did GM CEO Fritz Henderson quit, or was he "resigned"?

Despite some big name speakers, there are usually few surprises during the opening session of the Los Angeles Auto Show.  But this year could be a different.  For one thing, the previously publicized headliner won’t be here — Fritz Henderson will be back in Detroit packing his things after”resigning”  as President and CEO of General Motors Company. Speaking in his place will be Vice Chairman Bob Lutz whose future is also uncertain.

It’s unlikely, nay certain, that the boastful corporate infighter Lutz will provide any insight whatsoever into the boardroom intrigue that led to Henderson’s departure.

Indeed, even close associates havebeen left guessing as to whether the 50-year-old executive jumped or was pushed from his perch, although Ken Zino has provided a persuasiveve explanation for the firing  based on GM’s awful business results and interviews with senior GM managers.

(Click Here for Ken Zino’s breaking news analysis on Henderson’s ouster.)

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Though only some, well honestly few, observers wondered whether Henderson would last alongside GM’s hard-charging newly-government- mandated Chairman, Edward Whitacre, the timing of Tuesday’s announcement caught the complacent mainstream media by surprise.  Although, the Detroit Bureau humbly submits, we have been saying Henderson’s future was  in doubt since former chairman Rick Wagoner’s well deserved ouster earlier this year. 

Why TV news readers  expressed surprise that the number two GM exec was on the bubble as well,  is beyond us – maybe it has something to do with the effects of peroxide on brain cells. All you had to do was look at the results since Henderson took over.