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AutoNation chief 'concerned' over GM CEO dismissal

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AutoNation chief 'concerned' over GM CEO dismissal

DECEMBER 2, 2009 - 10:01 AM ET

DETROIT (Reuters) -- AutoNation Inc. CEO Mike Jackson said he was "surprised and concerned" about the dismissal of Fritz Henderson as General Motors Co. chief executive.

Jackson, head of the largest U.S. auto retailer, also said GM's interim CEO, Ed Whitacre, might be a good choice as a permanent replacement for Henderson. Jackson made his comments in an interview on CNBC.

"I thought the team was working, so I'm surprised and concerned," said Jackson, referring to Whitacre, who took over as chairman last summer, and Henderson, who became CEO in late March.

"I'm concerned because I think Ed and Fritz made a great team of complementary talents and I think Fritz's expertise will be missed," said Jackson. "And, since everyone agrees the core business of GM was on a very good path, you have to ask the question, why are they doing this?"

Jackson also said pay and compensation restrictions placed on GM will make it difficult for its 13-member board to duplicate Ford Motor Co. in hiring an experienced CEO such as Alan Mulally, who was a senior executive at Boeing Co.

"The question now is who is going to run this baby," Jackson said. "You have the Alan Mulally model. Let's not forget: Alan Mulally did not get a gold-plated package. He got a pure-platinum package, and that's not going to happen in this environment."

Compensation restrictions were placed on GM by the Obama administration as part of a restructuring plan when the U.S. automaker was in bankruptcy last spring. The U.S. Treasury owns about 61 percent of GM.

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