The new General Motors Chairman, Fritz Henderson (right center), at the Geneva show.
Early this morning a scrambling public relations operation at General Motors confirmed that Rick Wagoner is stepping down as chairman and CEO, effective immediately. Wagoner, 56, was named president and CEO in 2000, and assumed the role of chairman in 2003.
Fritz Henderson, GM president and chief operating officer, will serve as CEO. Henderson, 50, was named to his current position in 2008. He was previously vice chairman and chief financial officer.
Kent Kresa, chairman emeritus, Northrop Grumman Corporation, has been named interim non-executive chairman of the board of directors. Kresa became a GM director in 2003.
“The Board has recognized for some time that the Company’s restructuring will likely cause a significant change in the stockholders of the Company and create the need for new directors with additional skills and experience,” Kresa said.
“The Board intends to work to nominate a slate of directors for the next annual meeting that will include a majority of new directors taking into account the addition of new directors, retirement, and decisions by individual directors not to stand for re-election, although the specific individuals who will be nominated or choose not to run or leave the board are not yet known,” Kresa concluded.
Wagoner said, “On Friday I was in Washington for a meeting with administration officials. In the course of that meeting, they requested that I ‘step aside’ as CEO of GM, and so I have. Fritz Henderson is an excellent choice to be the next CEO of GM. Having worked closely with Fritz for many years, I know that he is the ideal person to lead the company through the completion of our restructuring efforts. His knowledge of the global industry and the company are exceptional, and he has the intellect, energy, and support among GM’ers worldwide to succeed. I wish him well, and I stand ready to support him, and interim Non-Executive Chairman Kent Kresa, in every way possible.
“I also want to extend my sincerest thanks to everyone who supported GM and me during my time as CEO. I deeply appreciate the excellent counsel and commitment of the GM Board and the strong support of our many partners including our terrific dealers, suppliers, and community leaders. I am grateful as well to the union leaders with whom I have had the chance to work closely to implement numerous tough but necessary restructuring agreements.
“Most important of all I want to express my deepest appreciation to the extraordinary team of GM employees around the world. You have been a tremendous source of inspiration and pride to me, and I will be forever grateful for the courage and commitment you have shown as we have confronted the unprecedented challenges of the past few years. GM is a great company with a storied history. Ignore the doubters because I know it is also a company with a great future,” Wagoner concluded.
The GM statement also said it is awaiting further announcements by the President and the Auto Task Force on Automotive Reconstruction, and will have additional comments at that time.