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'Inevitable' -- Reactions to Henderson's exit


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'Inevitable' -- Reactions to Henderson's exit


DECEMBER 2, 2009 - 12:01 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- General Motors Co. CEO Fritz Henderson has stepped down at the request of GM's board of directors, and Chairman Ed Whitacre will replace him on an interim basis while GM searches for a new leader.

Here are reactions to Henderson's departure and search for his successor:

David Bitterman, managing director, Huron Consulting

“At the end of the day it seems a little bit inevitable.

“Obviously, Whitacre and Fritz didn't envision the new GM the same way. Fritz basically was going to sell Opel to Magna and then changed plans and Whitacre questioned that. In no particular order, the first shoe to drop for Fritz was the collapse of sale of Saturn to Penske. That was straw No. 1.

“Straw No. 2 was the disagreement on the strategy in Europe in relation to Opel. Straw No. 3 was collapse of sale of Saab.

“I know Fritz but haven't had the pleasure of meeting Whitacre, but he seems to be a hard-charging guy. … I don't think it's disparaging of Fritz. But I read the news, and I said, ‘It's inevitable.'

“GM has great brands and a great footprint in North America. Bankruptcy afforded them new life. They have a strong liquidity position after bankruptcy. I think they will make a good go of it here but they want to make substantive changes.”

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich.

"The haste of it and the absence of specificity increases the already high anxiety of people working for GM.”

"Does this mean the restructuring will accelerate? Does it mean it will go deeper? It's another shock to the system, and we don't know what it means."

“I need to know what happened and why, like everyone else.”

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst, Edmunds.com

“This does not come entirely as a shock.”

“Ed Whitacre was the government's choice to lead the company and the automotive task force always appeared lukewarm about the idea of Fritz staying in the top job.”

“In recent months, the board and Henderson appeared as if they were not on the same page.”

“Henderson wanted to sell Opel; the board overruled, keeping the European company. The eleventh hour failure of GM's sale of Saturn and Saab likely suggested to the board that Henderson couldn't get the job done.”

Erich Merkle, analyst, Autoconomy

“I honestly didn't think that he would, long-term, be the guy at General Motors.

“I think Fritz's knowledge of General Motors and his history at General Motors probably provided a tremendous amount of value as they went through the bankruptcy and restructuring process, but going forward it was likely that he was not the guy to lead General Motors into the future.

“Ed Whitacre comes from outside automotive, and there were a number of people, with the success that Alan Mulally has had with Ford, that thought maybe that is the route to go, that we have to breathe new life into the auto industry.

“You still have to have the right person in place. There are still a lot of changes that need to be made in terms of strategically and directionally at General Motors.

“There wasn't anyone better than Fritz Henderson to lead them through this bankruptcy process. You certainly don't want to have someone fresh in there trying to lead. ... You need the history there that Fritz Henderson had.

“Going forward I think it requires a different skill set, quite frankly, than Henderson possesses.”

Stephen Massocca, managing director of Wedbush Morgan

“I think it's going to be difficult to get market compensation at these government-run companies. You're going to be living in a fish bowl and you're going to get hauled in front of Congress whenever to get a paddling.

“People who have options in life are going to look at that and say, ‘Why am I going to do this?' You start looking at companies like AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; ultimately you're not going to have talented people working or running these companies because there are going to be better opportunities elsewhere.

“I have no idea if that's the motivation for Fritz Henderson to resign or if he was pushed out because of not being able to sell the piece of dung that Saab is. I don't know, but if there's any kind of a broad story, that would be it.”

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