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At GM, one CEO race ends, and another begins

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GM wants next CEO to be homegrown, sources say

Chrissie Thompson

Automotive News -- January 31, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. wants to develop an internal replacement for CEO Ed Whitacre, probably in a couple of years, two sources close to the situation say.

Last week, Whitacre, 68, said the GM board had removed "interim" from his title. A search for a new CEO from outside the company failed to find a top-notch candidate willing to take the job, the sources say.

Any top-level executive has a shot at the job, including those running GM's overseas operations, the sources say.

Although Whitacre has said GM's corporate culture is fine, his stance on his successor indicates that he's looking for improvement. Whitacre and the board want the winning candidate to emerge from a new corporate culture based on decision-making and accountability, the sources say. Executives say that atmosphere has been missing at the automaker.

"It used to be we had such big meetings and everything that you wouldn't make decisions," Vice Chairman Tom Stephens said during a December interview. Now, he said, "We make more decisions walking to the meetings than we used to make at the meetings."

The sources say the internal CEO field is wide open. But if a winner fails to emerge, the board will commission a new search for an outside candidate, the sources say.

The search that the board conducted after it ousted CEO Fritz Henderson on Dec. 1 found no good candidates who were willing to work under the pay restrictions imposed by the U.S. government after GM's bailout, the sources say. GM's Detroit location and its corporate-disaster stigma also worked against the company, the sources say.

Whitacre, the former CEO of AT&T, also is chairman of GM. He was appointed by the Obama auto task force during GM's Chapter 11 reorganization last year.

"This place needs some stability," Whitacre said last week in announcing his official job. "I guess that's me."

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100131/COPY02/301319981/1178#ixzz0eIFZtP40

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At GM, one CEO race ends, and another begins

Automotive News -- February 1, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

At long last, General Motors is set up for a CEO sweepstakes that -- for pure joy of conjecture -- could rival the race to succeed Alan Mulally at Ford. With the 68-year-old Ed Whitacre installed as GM's chief executive, the machinery of speculation is moving into place.

Just before Whitacre's CEO title was made permanent last week, talk had turned to Chris Liddell as GM's man of the future. The former Microsoft finance chief starts his new job as vice chairman and CFO this week. Yet analysts already have been guessing that Liddell, 51, eventually will succeed Whitacre.

The New Zealand native, who holds a master's degree in philosophy from Oxford, had been Microsoft's CFO since 2005.

Mark Reuss: The N.A. honcho

No doubt several candidates will emerge, some from outside the company. But GM is hoping that internal candidates emerge. Among insiders, newly minted North American boss Mark Reuss is a sure contender if he gets U.S. operations on track.

Reuss, 46, has seen a GM CEO horse race from the inside rail. His father, Lloyd, was in one of the most famous sweepstakes of all time, losing out to Bob Stempel in 1990.

Tim Lee: The global guy

GM's president of international operations, Tim Lee, 58, is now getting the kind of experience overseas that launched former CEO Fritz Henderson into the rarified air of upper management. Lee's home base is China, where GM's sales grew by two-thirds last year, and he also oversees all operations outside North America and Europe.

A long-shot candidate might be Susan Docherty, head of sales and marketing. Docherty, 47, is as well positioned as any woman in history to become a Detroit 3 CEO. Of course, it all hinges on how well she moves the metal.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100201/OEM02/302019914/-1#ixzz0eILLYTiy

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A long-shot candidate might be Susan Docherty, head of sales and marketing. Docherty, 47, is as well positioned as any woman in history to become a Detroit 3 CEO. Of course, it all hinges on how well she moves the metal.

God help us if Docherty ever becomes CEO........(unless it's toyota, she will fit right in there).

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I don't like how GM wants the next CEO to come from within. The more things change the more they stay the same right? Having CEO's from within hasn't done a lot of good in the past 3 decades or so, and if Docherty becomes CEO, prepare to abandon ship. She's proven time and again that she's incompetent and unaware of what's going.

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Whitacre should look crosstown to fix arrogant culture

January 25, 2010 - 10:55 am ET

•Whitacre tightens grip on GM as CEO, endorses top managers

•CEO Whitacre should look crosstown to fix arrogant culture

Peter Brown is publisher of Automotive News

If Ed Whitacre wants to become General Motors' first thoroughly successful chief executive in a couple of generations, he ought to study the outsiders who are leading his crosstown rivals.

At both Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler, dynamic leaders are making all the people at these large organizations row in the same direction. That's hard at GM, whose insular culture still prompts people to act, despite GM's well-documented failure, as though they're the smartest people in the room, with nothing to learn from outside.

Bankruptcy did not cleanse GM of arrogance.

Whitacre needs to figure out how to improve that culture.

Alan Mulally came in from Boeing. In his aw-shucks, country-boy way he pushed a sclerotic Ford in one clear direction. Mulally has few and grand ideas, and that's what it takes for a CEO.

Like a mantra, his principles are repeated over and over within Ford:

• Be one global Ford, which doesn't do repetitive engineering and design all around the world;

• Emphasize the Ford blue-oval brand, and don't get caught up in small, extraneous businesses;

• Emphasize fuel efficiency and a full lineup from small cars to crossovers;

• Bring technology affordably to the masses; and

• Communicate that it's working.

At Chrysler, the overwhelming force of Sergio Marchionne's intense intellect and stunning, monk-like workaholism has whipped the organization into a rowing team. Everybody knows the challenge, and everybody is pulling together.

After the catastrophe of DaimlerChrysler and the absentee incompetence of Cerberus ownership, Chrysler folks are so happy to know that a powerful adult is in charge that they're happy to follow Marchionne into crazy-long work weeks.

GM has tremendous technical capability, and lots of good people. Under Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, now Whitacre's adviser, GM became more global and developed first-class vehicles.

Ed Whitacre's challenge is not to specify future cars or advertising campaigns or even to reorganize the engineering organization. It's to develop a sense of humility within GM that allows the organization to hear what consumers want.

GM needs a learning culture, and needs to treat its suppliers, dealers and consumers with a lot more respect.

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