By on January 15, 2010

The $900,000 smile

A lot of what you hear about Steve Girsky sounds decidedly positive: an outspoken critic of GM, Girsky lasted less than a year as Rick Wagoner’s “roving aide-de-camp,” reportedly due to frustration with management heel-dragging. He even earned TTAC’s “lesser-of-two-evils” endorsement to be Presidential Car Czar over Steve “Chooch” Rattner. When he was appointed to be the UAW rep on GM’s board, representing the union’s VEBA trust which owns 17.5 percent of GM’s stock, he was lauded as someone who could keep his union allegiances at bay. But as special advisor to GM CEO/Chairman Ed Whitacre, Girsky had better be prioritizing GM’s best interests. Reuters reports that he’s being paid a cool $900k in stock grants for his advice. That’s in addition to $200k director’s salary and reimbursement for “living expenses and travel to and from Detroit.” Not bad considering the fuss people are making over compensation at TARP-recipient financial institutions.

So what exactly is Girsky up to? According to AN [sub]:

Nick Reilly, president of GM Europe, said Tuesday in an interview that Girsky was aiding Whitacre by keeping tabs on GM’s operations outside North America. Whitacre is focusing on North America, Reilly said.

That’s a big job, what with the Opel and Daewoo debacles bubbling away overseas, but Girsky earns his hefty pay in other ways too. The Freep reports that another component of Girsky’s job description involves keeping the boss from embarassing himself.

To ease into his job, Whitacre said former Wall Street analyst Stephen Girsky was essentially acting as his executive Sherpa, explaining “terms like residuals and throughputs. That’s all pretty mystifying to a guy who comes from the outside,” he said.

It’s usually better to over- rather than under-pay babysitters. Especially when they work for the union. Still given the less-than-stellar news coming from GM’s International ops and the collapse of the Girsky-led Saturn spin-off attempt, the auto industry’s answer to Zelig might be getting a wee bit more than he’s worth. But hey, who are we to question the dread Feinberg?

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