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GM's new CEO Fritz Henderson has called it quits after only 8 months after the job, after deals to sell Saab and Saturn collapsed.  (Source: AP)

GM will now be headed temporarily by board chairman Ed Whitacre, a former AT&T executive who famously remarked, "I don't know anything about cars."  (Source: GM)

Fritz Henderson's daughter Sarah reportedly let loose a rant on Facebook after the announcement.  (Source: Jalopnik)

Some believe that Bob Lutz, a current GM vice chairman who has served with all three Detroit automakers will be picked as CEO. Mr. Lutz, a former jet fighter pilot, will take over for Mr. Henderson at tomorrow's LA Auto Show keynote address.  (Source: Detroit News)
GM's recovery hits a roadbump with an executive shakeup, but Whitacre, Lutz seize reins

Late Tuesday news broke that the new CEO of General Motors, Fritz Henderson, was stepping down after only eight months on the job, reportedly by mutual consent.  The move took the automotive industry somewhat by surprise as Mr. Henderson had been personally endorsed by President Obama and had helped see the automaker out of bankruptcy and onto an aggressive path of improved sales and ahead-of-schedule loan repayments.

So what went wrong?  Industry insiders in Detroit say that while the previous GM CEO, Rick Wagoner, was given nearly unlimited freedom before the bankruptcy, the government and board essentially strangled Mr. Henderson with too tight a leash. 

The board (and U.S. government) became disenchanted with Mr. Henderson as he appointed GM insiders to pivotal executive positions, declining to bring in fresh blood.  Mr. Henderson blamed pending government curbs on executive pay.  He received more flak over a poorly received ad campaign featuring GM board chairman Ed Whitacre and an abruptly canceled eBay sales experiment.

Most recently the ceiling really caved in when GM's deals to sell Saturn and Swedish-based Saab collapsed.  While both GM and the buyer share the blame in both of these failures, GM's inability to provide the buyer with enough resources was reportedly a common complaint between both ex-buyers.

Ed Whitacre, a former AT&T Inc CEO and current GM board chairman, announced Mr. Henderson's departure at a hasty press conference in Detroit.  Describes Mr. Whitacre, "Fritz has done a remarkable job leading the company through an unprecedented period of challenge and change.  While momentum has been building over the past several months, all involved agree that changes need to be made."

Mr. Whitacre, 68 years old, says that he will serve as GM's interim CEO until a more permanent replacement is found.  He refused to answer questions from journalists at his press event, but said that business would continue "as normal" at the automaker.  Mr. Whitacre is infamous for his quote, "I don't know anything about cars."

Mr. Henderson's daughter, Sarah Henderson, reportedly released a Facebook rant after the announcement according to the auto blog site Jalopnik. The authenticity of Ms. Henderson's comments has not been confirmed.

The job search will likely be complicated by the fact that pay for the position has been restricted by the Obama administration's so-called "compensation czar", Kenneth Feinberg.  According to Mr. Whitacre, the government played no direct role in Mr. Henderson's decision to step down.

One possible executive candidate is current Vice Chairman Bob Lutz.  While certainly an industry insider, Mr. Lutz has spent time at all three Detroit automakers and thus isn't considered old blood.  He's known for his vocal and blunt style that has at times run him into trouble, but has also earned him many fans.  Mr. Lutz will step in for Mr. Henderson tomorrow at GM's LA Auto Show keynote address.  Richard Change, an automotive journalist with The New York Times suggests that the signs may point to the selection of "Maximum Bob" as the new GM CEO.

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RE: ed whitachre
By elgueroloco on 12/2/2009 2:56:21 PM , Rating: 2
Is that what I just spent 2 weeks dealing with? AT&T is a horrible nightmare of incompetence and was unable to get my DSL working after 2 weeks.

I had to hold 10 minutes to talk to a new person every time I wanted to do anything even slightly different. I had to hold for a little over an hour to reach their disconnection department. I went way over my cell phone minutes from all the times I had to call them and hold. Most of the people there didn't even seem to know how to do their jobs.

I will never even consider doing business with AT&T again unless something changes drastically. What a pathetic joke of a company. I finally ended up going with Comcast and got my internet and digital cable going the same day I called.

Now that I know who caused all that, if I ever meet Ed Whitachre I will punch him in the face and steal $60 from his wallet as compensation for my cell phone overage this month.

RE: ed whitachre
By EasyC on 12/3/2009 12:39:26 PM , Rating: 2
I had the same experience with Verizon fios. Not only was it a PITA to swap my billing info to a new CC, but they even went as far as to continue taking my money 3 months after I cancelled. Then took another 8 months and an impending lawsuit just to get the money back!

I will never support another Verizon product again. As much as Comcast is an evil giant, atleast they can service!

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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