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GM CEO Whitacre to pay for D.C. flight


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GM CEO Whitacre to pay for D.C. flight

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington -- General Motors Co. chairman and CEO Edward Whitacre Jr. will pay for a charter flight from Kansas City to Washington this afternoon out of his own pocket.

Whitacre is announcing this morning at the automaker's Fairfax Assembly plant near Kansas City, Kansas, that the automaker repaid U.S. and Canadian taxpayers for $5.8 billion in outstanding government loans -- plus $700 million in interest to the U.S. Treasury and an unspecified amount of interest to the Canadian government. He is also announcing $257 million in new investments in plants in Kansas City and the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant.

In order to get to meetings in Washington, the tight schedule required Whitacre to charter a flight, a GM official familiar with the matter said. Late this afternoon, Whitacre will hold meetings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and the Michigan congressional delegation. GM emphasized the difference between today's action -- paying taxpayers back -- and the company's PR nightmare in 2008 over planes.

Members of Congress berated GM and Chrysler's CEOs in late 2008 for flying top executives to Washington to ask for a bailout.

Last year, GM dumped its corporate jets while in bankruptcy. Whitacre sometimes flies on private jets, under an arrangement negotiated with his former employer, AT&T Corp., before he joined GM last year.

Whitacre negotiated a lifelong deal with the telecommunications giant before he retired in 2007 with a $158 million package that allows him to fly free on AT&T corporate jets for up to 10 hours a month. That's the equivalent of two round-trip flights between his home in San Antonio and his apartment in Detroit. The perk costs AT&T, where Whitacre was chairman and CEO, about $20,000 a month, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The government owns a 60.8 percent stake in GM, which gave up seven corporate planes and its leased hangar at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Eliminating the jets was a condition of receiving federal aid. The government swapped most of $50 billion in loans to GM for the stock; taxpayers won't know if they will be fully repaid until the government sells off its entire stake over the next few years.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100421/AUTO01/4210391/1148/GM-CEO-Whitacre-to-pay-for-D.C.-flight#ixzz0ljsVFcOg

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