By on December 21, 2009

Liddell (center) gets pumped for the exchange of goods and services

GM’s embattled finance department is getting new blood today, as The General has poached Microsoft’s Chris Liddell to take over as Chief Financial Officer. GM’s CFO position is being vacated by Ray Young, who was rumored to be on his way out as far back as last summer. Young will become a VP for international operations. The 51 year old Liddell has been Microsoft’s CFO since 2005, and is (irony of ironies) best known for reducing the software giant’s legendary cash position through buybacks and dividends. The Wall Street Journal estimates Liddell oversaw the return of $14b to Microsoft stockholders last fiscal year alone.

Though he was only modestly successful at boosting Microsoft’s stock price, he does have another qualification, explained to the WSJ by ISI Group analyst Bill Whyman

He labored under a dominant personality who has a challenging relationship with the investor community

Which sounds like good experience for life under Ed Whitacre. But unless Liddell demonstrates some serious stock price mojo, he won’t last long. GM’s major goal over the next several years will be pulling off an IPO that will both provide the company with working capital and (in theory anyway) pay off some portion of its taxpayer obligations. On behalf of America’s taxpayers, we wish him the best of luck with that.

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12 Comments on “GM Names Chris Liddell As CFO...”


  • avatar
    texlovera

    Returning $14B from a healthy Microsoft is one thing.  Returning $XXB from GM is another.

    But if he can get half of what GM owes back to the taxpayers, I’d take it right now and call it a day.

  • avatar
    rnc

    I would love to know how much (GM) stock he is being offered when it turns around (IPO).  Leaving a job that pays into the hundreds of millions to goto GM has to have a price.   

    Share purchases have always been MS largest expense, it’s how they pay thier employees (options) and the only way for people like Gates and Balmer (and alot of others) to slowly unload thier stock without crashing the price. 

  • avatar
    James2

    Gates and Ballmer probably would prefer to shrink the cash mountain Liddell’s way, versus losing money on virtually everything else Microsoft has tried, like the Xbox and Zune and WebTV and…

  • avatar
    CyCarConsulting

    Amazing how people believe their own BS. To think that one can come from a cake walk  job at MS, and enter the complexities of GM, is truly delusional.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I doubt being CFO at Microsoft is a cakewalk.  Sure, the company makes money, but the demands of the investors will always be for more.
       
      And Liddell has previously been CFO at International Paper — and CEO at Carter Holt Harvey (another forest products company) and at Credit Suisse First Boston NZ (an investment bank).  So he does have varied experience, in addition to his engineering background.
       
      To me, he looks like a very credible choice.  But maybe you could tell us what experience you were expecting from the new GM CFO?

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      @tt009

      We’ll see.

  • avatar
    Bubba Gump

    As long as he can add 1+3 equals 4 I’ll be happy, Something Ray was incapable of obviously. It also does not hurt having a finance guy who is an engineer. Maybe it’ll keep him from doing stupid stuff.

  • avatar
    TonUpBoi

    Hey, it’s not somebody who’s been promoted from within.
     
    Let’s give the guy a chance and see if he can accomplish anything.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    He seems like a very capable guy. Hopefully he whips the GM finance staff into shape instead of the other way around.
     
     

  • avatar

    Well if he can KO Randy Couture, that guy should be able to definitely kick some ass as CFO.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    I’ve said for years that Microsoft is the GM of software, so GM filling a position with a guy from Microsoft is no surprise.
     
    Microsoft suffers from many of the same problems that plague GM.  Poor quality product, willful ignorance of competing products, and a policy of assuming that huge market share will last forever.

    Chris Liddell should fit right in at GM.

    -ted

  • avatar

    Ha!  Never thought I’d see a TTAC article directly relevant to me (as a Microsoftie).  Chris’s departure was announced quite suddenly about a month ago – interesting to see that the other shoe has now dropped.  I wish him the best of luck in his new challenge.

    I, too, have sometimes wondered if Microsoft is the GM of software.  I certainly hope not, and after a few years of reading TTAC I really believe we aren’t (yet? still?).  We have other problems for sure, but I don’t think they’re very analogous to GM’s problems.

    @rnc: Couple of small corrections.  Microsoft hasn’t given stock options since the very early 2000s (I think 2001 may have been the last offering), since our stock price has been essentially flat the entire time.  A relatively small portion of most people’s incomes is from stock awards – although above a certain level, stock awards can make up a very large portion of one’s income.  Also, Chris wasn’t making 100s of millions a year at Microsoft – our highest paid exec (this year) is Robbie Bach who “only” made ~$7 million.
     


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