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Rattner: GM picked Akerson from a trio of board candidates

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Rattner: GM picked Akerson from a trio of board candidates

Automotive News -- September 20, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

The search for General Motors' latest CEO wasn't exactly a global headhunting effort.

In his new book on the GM do-over, Steven Rattner, who led the Obama auto task force from February 2009 until July 2009, says the choice was made from among three board members after Ed Whitacre's surprise resignation last month.

Whitacre took over as CEO in December 2009 after Fritz Henderson was forced out. But the rangy, 68-year-old Texan and ex-AT&T boss decided this summer that he would not see GM through its looming initial public offering.

"Several directors felt left in the lurch," wrote Rattner in Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry. "Just as when they had asked Fritz to leave in late 2009, GM had no internal candidates (this was one of the management problems that remained to be addressed)."

At a board session in early August, Rattner noted that "a brief effort was made to talk Ed out of his decision, but Ed was not a man who changed his mind."

Because of the imminent IPO, Rattner said, the board decided it lacked the time for a thorough search and had to look within its own ranks for Whitacre's successor.

The three candidates were Steve Girsky, GM vice chairman and a former auto analyst; Patricia Russo, former CEO of Alcatel-Lucent; and Akerson, then head of the private equity firm Carlyle Group. During the board meeting, the three members were asked to step out of the room while the rest of the directors pondered.

"They narrowed the list quickly," Rattner wrote. "Girsky was not seen as a plausible replacement -- no real management experience. And while Russo had done well as GM's lead director, her past performances as chief executive had been rocky. That left Akerson."

A good choice, Rattner wrote: "He was the right choice; Akerson and Whitacre possess the same kind of energy and toughness."

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100920/OEM02/309209969/-1#ixzz105nuYSoE

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