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Jerry York, Once Key Figure at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, Dead at 71

Helped stage failed bids to control Chrysler, GM.

by on Mar.18, 2010

In his long career, Jerry York worked for all three Detroit makers and eventually challenged management at each of them.

Ask those who know Jerry York what they thought of him and you’d heard a mix of descriptions: brilliant strategist, gadfly, great ally, dangerous enemy, and a voice for change in a long-stagnant auto industry.

The truth about Jerome B. York, who died Thursday at 71, is likely a bit of all the above.

At the time of his death, from a brain aneurysm, York was serving as CEO of Harwinton Capital, an investment firm, and, since 1997, as a director for Apple Inc., the successful producer of iPods, iPhones and Mac computers.  But it was in the auto industry that York was best known, and where his legacy will likely be most debated.

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Born in Memphis, the bookish-looking York maintained a soft and subtle twang to his speech long after he moved to Michigan.  He was trained as an engineer, receiving degrees from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, MIT, and the University of Michigan.  But in an industry long divided between “car guys” and “bean counters,” it was on the finance side that he earned his notoriety.

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