By on January 4, 2016

Mary-Barra-Chevrolet-Cruze

General Motors CEO Mary Barra will be the automaker’s first female chairwoman of their board of directors, the automaker said Monday.

Barra takes over for Tim Solso, who will remain on the board.

Barra took over as CEO two years ago and is GM’s first female CEO. When Barra took over as CEO in January 2014, the automaker split the role of CEO and chairman following Dan Akerson’s departure.

In a statement announcing the move, outgoing chairman Solso said merging the two made sense for the automaker.

“At a time of unprecedented industry change, the Board concluded it is in the best interests of the company to combine the roles of Chair and CEO in order to drive the most efficient execution of our plan and vision for the future,” Solso said in a statement. “With GM consistently delivering on its targets and on track to generate significant value for its shareholders, this is the right time for Mary to assume this role.”

In combining the two roles, investors could be more wary of GM’s ability to deliver to shareholders, according to the Wall Street Journal. About half of S&P 500 companies have separate CEO and chairman positions, according to the report.

Barra downplayed that risk in the statement announcing her hire:

“I am honored to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors. With the support of our Board, we will continue to drive shareholder value by improving our core business and leading in the transformation of personal mobility,” she said in the statement.

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68 Comments on “Barra Named General Motors’ First Chairwoman...”


  • avatar

    This is a big mistake, that’s how we went bankrupt under Wagoner. Once again this year in June I will introduce a shareholder proposal at the Annual Meeting to require a separation of these duties. Last year it received a 35% approval as I recall.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I agree with you, and so do no small number of financial analysts. The Chairman’s job is to schmooze the board members into an overall multi-year company strategy, a full time job. A separate CEO with varied manufacturing, design, marketing, and finance experience is needed to run the company, also a full time job – and provide a counterweight to the Chairman when he/she starts emphasizing the ‘imagine’ part of “imagineering” over the engineering part.

      • 0 avatar
        ect

        I agree with you that Chairman and CEO are separate positions and should not be held by the same person. It is widely recognized that making the CEO Chairman is a bad governance practice, but the reality is that there is every reason for a CEO to want the position of Chairman.

        The most important thing that the Board odes is hire the CEO, who is then supposed to be accountable to the Board. If the CEO is also Chairman, he/she is effectively accountable to nobody. Great for the CEO, bad for the company.

        OTOH, the the role of chairman is almost never a full-time job, any more than the role of a director is. The Board approves or disapproves overall strategy and other major decisions, but these are initiated by management and reviewed by the Board, not the other way around.

  • avatar
    mason

    There’s something about Mary.

  • avatar

    Wonderful…

    I would say “I hope she doesn’t end up nearly destroying the company like Fiorina at HP”, but GM already knows bankruptcy and I really don’t care about their product…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Everyone, inc MSM, conveniently forgets how “Carly” wrecked an IT heavyweight.

      Funny that.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        More precisely, she completely failed to stop a wrecking job begun long before she took the reins.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          I’d also like to know which one of the various clowns the board stuck in “her” place did any better. At HP, Carly was the symptom: the board is the disease.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I don’t disagree, but I also don’t think she did anything to distinguish herself, and she definitely hurt the culture. She didn’t prove herself as a very good leader.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I don’t disagree on the board but will point out net earnings rose for three straight years after her termination and continued steady until 2012 when the company posted a $12.65B loss and had since held steady in the $5B period similar to her reign but in 2013/14 dollars (so an inflation adjusted lesser figure). I’m not sure what happened in 2012 but until that point the “board” and its incompetence were doing quite well.

            http://www.statista.com/statistics/264920/hewlett-packards-net-earnings-since-1998/

  • avatar
    Hummer

    GM is quickly going from a Toyota/BMW large range of products, to a Honda complacency theme of only building the boring no-one-cares background junk.

    It’s really quite something to watch the company lose its identity.

    Half of the product line is complete crap, and the other half that is somewhat appealing is being suffocated with poorly implemented technology and jaw-dropping price tags. And there is absolutely nothing interesting in the middle.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      …GM is quickly going from a Toyota/BMW large range of products, to a Honda complacency theme of only building the boring no-one-cares background junk…

      Because corporations aren’t charities and can’t be run that way. It is about making a profit, and even with the ignition switch scandal, GM is making fat stacks of profit.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I don’t expect them to be charities but they were a whole lot more interesting when they were teasing V8s in all of smaller vehicles. Not to mention offering FS SUVs for reasonable prices (while selling 3x as many).
        Now it’s a race to see what US automaker can have the most number of problems per vehicle by using the most complicated setups they can. Even FCA doesn’t look as questionable anymore when it comes to the quality of the products and the likelihood of failure. I can safely say I would trust an FCA product over every single FoMoCo or GM product Except for FoMoCo 3/4^ and GM 3/4^ trucks, those are the only products that haven’t completely been destroyed in the last 10 years by unprecedented levels of incompetence.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          When didn’t GM build mostly invisible junk? This is the company that made their customers happier by substituting Daewoos for half their lineup. The same strategy killed Suzuki in the US.

          Everyone is having their lineup turned to unnecessarily over-complicated disposable diapers by Obama’s CAFE, but GM had the lowest peak to fall from.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Will she also be running for Prez of the US in 5 yrs?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    “Carly wrecked an IT heavyweight”. I can’t think of any better qualifications to run for President of the United States. Now all we need is a brain surgeon and a real estate tycoon. Haven’t we heard this before? Mary could always run for President if GM ends up being owned by the Chinese.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Yes we can.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Yes because a career politician has never done anyone wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Doctors screw up sometimes, so I want a marketing executive to do my spinal surgery.

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Do colleges now offer a 4 year degree on being a US President?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            No, but people should learn a bit about how the federal government works before declaring themselves qualified for the position. There are a lot of ways to get that knowledge: service in Congress (preferably in leadership or committee leadership), as a state-level chief executive (i.e. governor), as a high-level federal bureaucrat, in the top ranks of the military, or even as an outside adviser to presidents. But government is extremely complicated and runs very differently from any private-sector business, and it’s laughable to think someone like Trump or Carson or Fiorina could walk in and hope to get anything done. Such a person would be eaten alive by governmental veterans with their own agendas who know how to pull the levers. They might start to get their own understanding after two or three years — most of the way through a term.

            Even experienced officials have a really hard time at the beginning of presidencies. Look at W Bush who was cajoled into the Iraq war against his own better judgment, or Clinton who went full speed ahead on social issues at exactly the time in the past 45 years when the country was most socially conservative and made himself toxic.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Shaking up the status quo is how changes happen, anyone that’s been in politics too long becomes complacent to their purpose. This has been seen over and over, your saying that putting a new comer in charge of the highest office wouldn’t work. BS, we have tried the career politicians and we know dang well how that works. I don’t disagree that volunteering service in congress is an excellent way to learn the trade (I had a well connected friend in high school do just that) but to imply that they would fail based off of a calculation you ran in your head is ridiculous.
            I want someone that is willing to figure out what is needed to fix problems rather than someone who uses executive actions to undermine the country when they can’t get their way.

          • 0 avatar
            ClutchCarGo

            People unhappy with establishment candidates should ask Minnesotans how they liked having an outsider celebrity for governor.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            I think I could find more examples on my side of the table given the chance, if that is where this is going. Rahm Emanuel doesn’t exactly appear to be a well loved mayor at the moment and he has quite a history in politics.

          • 0 avatar
            ClutchCarGo

            And anyone enamored of billionaires stepping into top govt executive roles should take a look at how well Bruce Rauner has done taking on the entrenched establishment in Illinois.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Where did the idea I wanted a billionaire president come from?
            At least however, someone that’s a billionaire going in wont be as easily persuaded by political gifts and promises made to donors, (see Mr. Reid).
            Taking on a political spot in an area that’s set in its ways and free of major news conflicts is a heck of a lot different than taking the top spot and being able to point at a problem and have thousands of people instantly try to prove you correct/incorrect.
            I can point to poor small counties in eastern NC that will take an issue with a newcomer because they refuse to play game or because some established local doesn’t like them. You cannot fairly compare the two, local yokels can make those small town officials live in hell. At least when you have a spot light you can call them as you see them and have national support to point out a problem.

            With minimal research (Wikipedia(which in my opinion makes him look like the bogeyman)) I would say he’s done a fine job fighting the establishment, if they refuse to give some to help I see nothing wrong with his course of action. It’s very Reagan v. Airport, yea no one is happy, but that’s how problems are fixed not by throwing more money at a problem and ignoring it.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            If you can find an example of an outsider who really worked out, more power to you. But I can’t, and I bet you can’t. Especially in the presidency. There has never been a truly outsider president in the nation’s history, and most of the ones with little experience haven’t been very good, especially in their first terms.

            Some career politicians aren’t very good. Others are excellent. But this is a complex field and there’s absolutely no way someone with no relevant experience can come in and succeed. It’s like making a McDonald’s branch manager into the CEO of GM. At least until they learn the ropes — which will take a few years — they are bound to fail.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ahem, I think “Trading Places” speaks for itself.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            “At least until they learn the ropes — which will take a few years — they are bound to fail.”
            That’s not necessarily a bad thing in this instance. The problems that are agreed upon across the board tend to be worked on immediately, and the big problems the candidate campaigned on tend to be perfected longer by both sides to net a better result.

            – 28, not sure what your referring to.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I was referring to Dal and the film of the same name.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      Sound bites are quick fun, but this Bloomberg article tells a different story than “She killed HP”. Worth a look for those who can stand reading more than 140 characters in a go.

      http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-09-18/carly-fiorina-s-hewlett-packard-record-in-one-chart

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The article does seem to point to the board as the source of most of HP’s problems prior to Leo Apotheker’s disaster.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The revisionism is hilarious, esp given the timing ten years on. I wonder how much money/promises/favor it cost Carly for the Bloomberg piece?

        It cites this 2007 paper:

        “”Ultimately, it turned out to be a good move,” says Burgelman. “But although the logic of the merger was correct, executing it was difficult.” Where Fiorina failed — and where Hurd excels — was in educating HP managers and employees on how to realize the cost and operational efficiencies [sic] and translate those into higher margins for each business. “This set the stage of achieving a higher growth rate,” says Burgelman. “By getting HP’s leaders to do a better job of exploiting the possibilities of the merger and thus the capabilities of the combined company, Hurd accomplished what Fiorina couldn’t.””

        https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/compaq-hp-ultimately-urge-merge-was-right

        Oh ok so she was only sort of a failure instead of a total one. Phew, I’m glad we cleared it up.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          It’s akin to arguing that she was a good chef because she managed to pick up the ingredients at the grocery store.

          Half of mergers destroy shareholder value. Obviously, all of them look good on paper before the fact. Many of them fail due to poor execution by the executive team, not because someone forgot to put together a happy spreadsheet or a memo that identified how nifty it was.

          Fiorina may have had an OK plan and the dot-bomb timing may not have been her fault, but doesn’t mean that she was an effective manager. Her efforts to turn a once-innovative enterprise into a run-of-the-mill bean counting shop does her no favors.

    • 0 avatar
      TomHend

      Toss in a Community Organizer too.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Cue Toonces taking Aztek off cliff.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Carly didn’t do anything wrong, HP didn’t appreciate her management style.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Let’s not let facts get in the way.

      Being hired in July 1999, the highest revenue year during her reign was the first, FY2000: $3.7B. Then it plunged to $0.41B and $-0.9B after the Compaq merger never to recover its 2000 high until after her termination in 2005. She is a failure, a poster child for hiring the wrong candidate to satisfy trendy politics and ludicrous HR policies.

      http://www.statista.com/statistics/264920/hewlett-packards-net-earnings-since-1998/

      “Less than a month later, the board brought back Tom Perkins and forced Fiorina to resign as chair and chief executive officer of the company.[108] The company’s stock jumped 6.9 percent on news of her departure, adding almost three billion dollars to the value of HP in a single day.[109][110]”

      “In July 1999, Hewlett-Packard Company named Fiorina chief executive officer, succeeding Lewis Platt and prevailing over the internal candidate Ann Livermore.[50] Matthew Boyle of Fortune magazine said of Fiorina’s hiring as HP’s first woman CEO that, “Carly Fiorina didn’t just break the glass ceiling, she obliterated it, as the first woman to lead a FORTUNE 20 company.”[51][52][53]

      Writing in Fortune magazine in August 2015, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld described the hiring as the result of “a dysfunctional HP board committee, filled with its own poisoned politics, hired her with no CEO experience, nor interviews with the full board.”[54] Fiorina received a larger signing offer than any of her predecessors, including: US$65 million in restricted stock to compensate her for the Lucent stock and options she left behind,[49] a US$3 million signing bonus, a US$1 million annual salary (plus a US$1.25–US$3.75 million annual bonus), US$36,000 in mortgage assistance, a relocation allowance, and permission (and encouragement) to use company planes for personal affairs.[55]”

      ” The Compaq acquisition was not as transformative as Fiorina and the board had envisioned: in the merger proxy, they had forecasted that the PC division of the merged entities would generate an operating margin of 3.0% in 2003, while the actual figure was 0.1% in that year and 0.9% in 2004.”

      “n January 2004, Fiorina announced an agreement with Apple founder Steve Jobs for the iPod+HP—a co-branded iPod sold through HP’s retail channels.[84] As part of the agreement, HP was forbidden from selling a competitor to the iPod until August 2006 and HP agreed to pre-install iTunes on every computer sold.[85] Two days before Fiorina announced the HP+iPod, Jobs announced a new product, the iPod mini, catching Fiorina off guard.[86] HP did not sell the newer versions of the iPod in a timely fashion, leaving them to sell an outdated device for several months. In addition, Apple began selling its own iPods through the same retail channels.[85] As a result, at the peak of the program, iPod+HP sales represented only a small portion of total iPod sales.[87] In July 2005, soon after Fiorina resigned as CEO, her successor Mark Hurd ended HP’s agreement with Apple, within days of taking office,[88] a “highly symbolic decision” that was well-received as a return to innovation by HP”

      ” Fiorina instituted three major changes shortly after her arrival: replacing profit sharing with bonuses awarded if the company met financial expectations, a reduction in operating units from 83 to 12, and consolidating back-office functions.[18]

      Fiorina faced a backlash among HP employees and the tech community for her leading role in the demise of HP’s egalitarian “The HP Way” work culture and guiding philosophy,[55][63][80] which she felt hindered innovation.[55][81] Because of changes to HP’s culture, and requests for voluntary pay cuts to prevent layoffs (subsequently followed by the largest layoffs in HP’s history), employee satisfaction surveys at HP—previously among the highest in America—revealed “widespread unhappiness” and distrust,[55][82] and Fiorina was sometimes booed at company meetings and attacked on HP’s electronic bulletin board.[55]

      According to The Fiscal Times, Fiorina and others have argued that she “laid the groundwork for some of HP’s progress under her successors”, and that she shook the culture at HP so that it could compete in the Internet Age.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carly_Fiorina

  • avatar
    brn

    Either that’s a photo of her daughter or they way overkilled on doctoring the photo.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    We’ve had a bunch of lawyers be president and we know that lawyers can’t be trusted, but we just keep electing them anyway.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Like I said Carly was misunderstood. HP didn’t appreciate her efforts in leading HP to a race to the bottom. What an excellent resume for running our Country. I don’t think Mary is as bad as Carly.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    It’s still early, but on the heels of a taxpayer-financed, shedding of debt (including legacy debt mountain run up by 37 years of complete & total incompetence on a mind-boggling scale), clean slate start for Government Motors, I have little faith that Mary “No More Crappy Vehicles” Barra is anything other than another platitude-spouting, empty suit, in that fine GM tradition.

  • avatar
    callmeishmael

    If GM can’t turn itself around after being rescued from the precipice then it deserves whatever Sergio Marchionne does to it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      Sergio will not have a chance to do anything to GM. If GM doesn’t turn itself around it will not be FCA that comes to its rescue, it will be the Chinese. GM is in better shape than FCA.

      • 0 avatar
        callmeishmael

        I was under the impression that neither company was a pillar of strength. Joining them together would multiply their problems exponentially. The Chinese might do something for GM, but they will do a lot more to GM in the process.

        I would love to read a history, free of anyone’s hobbyhorses, of exactly how US car makers fell so far.

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          They fell so far because beancounters and marketing people wrestled control away from engineers and product people.

          For whatever faults she may have, Barra at least comes from a product development background.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            GM has always been a marketing company, not an engineering company. GM met its match when Toyota innovated with lean production and GM couldn’t figure out how to adopt it or do better.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Goodness, we’re all experts, aren’t we?

    Perhaps I’ll apply for a position on GM’s board when I retire next year, and this former folding carton designer will show them how to run a company! My first declaration will be to give the Impala three tail lights per side!

    That’ll do it. 50% market share by year’s end…

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    She (or her minions) carefully manages her pictures for max effect on target audience.

    If only GM tailored it’s products to target markets as well…as in a sporty, practical car (like a GTI) for the target market of people who like to drive good cars, but can live with a 4 or small 6 and don’t need 400 hp…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would like to see an Impala with three tail lights per side and have a grill that would be America’s favorite outdoor grill (advertising slogan for the 69 Impala).

    As for the Chinese ownership it might not be a choice if GM goes through another bail out. Hopefully this will not happen again.


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