By on June 1, 2012


GM CEO Dan Akerson might be in another one of his battles with the truth.

In a softballed interview with Fortune, GM’s CEO Dan Akerson said that he was suddenly and surprisingly drafted to lead GM as if it was time to go to war. “This was a call to service for me,” said Akerson, as he wrapped himself in a red, white, and blue flag and regaled  interviewer Geoff Colvin with stories from the U.S. Naval Academy.  Akerson makes the CEO job sound like a hardship post:

“It was somewhat of a dislocation to me from a personal routine point of view,  I had to move. I am sixty-some years old and it’s a little late in life to try to reinvent yourself.”

Hardship or not, Dan Akerson  followed the call to duty, even if  he “wasn’t expecting it.”

He wasn’t?

The Wall Street Journal says that it was Akerson who applied for the job, and that he used personal connections to get it:

His path to GM began about two years ago. A former Naval Academy engineering student and ship officer (he ran the ship’s power plant), he was at Carlyle in 2009 leading the global buyout unit. But he had followed GM’s troubles closely, and, hoping to get on its board, spoke to a colleague who knew the Treasury Department’s GM point person, Ron Bloom.”

The colleague, David Marchick, described Mr. Akerson to the Treasury man as a “tough-as-nails, no-B.S. conservative Republican.” To his surprise, Mr. Bloom responded: “He’s perfect.”

Well, maybe the Wall Street Journal got it wrong. Certainly, the  U.S. Navy Alumni Association must have had its story straight when it wrote:

On a humid June day in 2009, armies of lawyers were hashing out General Motors’ recent bankruptcy filing in a courtroom without air-conditioning in lower Manhattan. In Washington, Akerson, a managing director of the Carlyle Group, confided to an associate that he’d like to serve on GM’s new board of directors.”

The associate again was David Marchick. He tried to talk Akerson out of it. The job would demand a lot of Akerson’s time.  The pay would be much less than at Carlyle. Most of all, Akerson would have to deal with Washington. But Akerson, says the article, “wouldn’t let the idea go:”

“If you’re really serious, I can give Ron a call,” offered Marchick, who had done business with Ron Bloom, the head of Obama’s auto task force. Akerson agreed.”

Also according to this story, Akerson was pitched to auto task force chief Ron Bloom. Also according to this story, Bloom responded: “He sounds perfect.”

The article was reprinted many times.  Some sites even swear they had seen the same article in the Detroit Free Press. Where it can’t be found anymore.

These stories don’t jibe with Akerson’s claim that he was called up out of the blue, and that he followed the sudden call of duty, personal inconvenience or not. If the stories don’t jibe, then someone does not tell the truth. You decide who is telling lies.

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13 Comments on “Call Of Duty: Akerson’s Battle With The Truth...”


  • avatar
    bunkie

    To quote the Firesign Theatre:

    “And the terrible news drought continues.”

    (Ray Hamburger from “Give me Immortality or Give me Death”)

  • avatar
    el scotto

    No, he was the officer over the enlisted guys who actually ran the power plant. Something a lot of officers and MBA’s forget,

  • avatar
    rpol35

    and this matters because…….Robert Farago rides again, I hate GM because….I don’t know, I just hate them.

  • avatar
    aycaramba

    Not sure I see the mistruth here, based on the excerpts (I haven’t read the source articles–it’s 5 PM here and a beer awaits). Seems like he was angling to get on the BoD, which is significantly different from angling to be CEO from a time-and-commitment perspective. I suppose you could argue that getting on the BoD was the first step in his secret plan to make it to the CEO’s office, but one could argue just the opposite, too. Show me where he’s quoted as using his contacts to get to the CEO role, then you might have a scoop–albeit a minor one. After all, a corporate leader being “flexible” with the truth? Not exactly shocking to me.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Must be something about the way CEOs are treated that they tend to have God complexes, feeling so smug and superior about themselves. Happens to world leaders too. I doubt this makes them better decision makers, in fact it’s probably the opposite. They need to be humbled once in a while. Let’s throw eggs into their faces!

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      Ive seen and heard some sociology theories that suggest having a God complex might be a per-requisite for becoming a CEO or similar high-authority individual, reasonable people have more reasonable ambitions.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        You might be right. After all, if you keep telling yourself how great and superior you are often enough and other people too will start to believe it.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        I think it has more to do with how many people in positions of power seem to act like sociopathic jerks because only a sociopathic jerk is aggressive and ruthless enough to get into a position of power in the first place.

        There are of course other theories that say it’s possible to be super-nice and caring and get into power, but then the power itself will change you into a jerkass.

  • avatar
    Slab

    “Oh, I’m taking one for the team.” Retires three years later with a $30 million separation package.

  • avatar
    dolometh

    I’m no fan of Akerson’s, but to be fair, serving on the board and becoming CEO are two different things. If I recall correctly from Steven Rattner’s book, it’s true that he didn’t want the CEO post. Seemed like he got thrust into it when Whitacre bailed.


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