Meet Chrysler's New Board

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

There are a few familiar faces on Chrysler’s newly complete board, which was announced over the weekend (via Chrysler Media). But not many. Chairman C. Robert Kidder, Sergio Marchionne and Fiat Powertrain CEO Alfredo Altavilla are the previously-announced, or otherwise-obvious picks. No surprises there. The other picks? Let’s take a look, shall we?

First up, we have the politically well-connected, namely James J. Blanchard. The former Michigan Governor, Ambassador to Canada, Congressman and Regulatory and Government Affairs honcho at one of the world’s largest law firms leaves little doubt as to why he’s on board. Chrysler’s going to need a D.C. ninja, steeped in the traditions of the Potomac two-step. Blanchard fits the bill. Is it any surprise then that Blanchard was the UAW’s pick to represent its VEBA stake?

George F.J. Gosbee (brief bio here) is the energy man, having managed several energy funds and founded Tristone Capital, a global energy advisory firm. He’ll be reading the energy-price tea leaves, and angling for the Canadian interest; according to the Wall Street Journal, Gosbee was the Canadian Government’s single pick on the Chrysler board.

Scott Stuart, founder of Sageview Capital and former partner at Kohlber Kravis and Roberts is likely a Kidder bagman, having served with the new Chairman on Duracell and Borden Chemical. He also served on the board of something named “Aveos Fleet Performance Inc.” which (it turns out) is the in-house maintenance service for Air Canada, not (as one might presume) the worst rental fleet ever. He was reportedly picked by the US government.

The airline theme continues with one of Fiat’s picks for the Chrysler board, Stephen Wolf. Wolf worked at Pan American World Airways, Continental Airlines and Republic Airlines, and was Chairman and CEO of United Airlines from 1987 to 1994. Wolf oversaw the handing over of 55 percent of UAL’s stock to employees in return for salary concessions. Sound familiar? Wikipedia notes that “the financial outcomes of the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) were decidedly uneven for different players. As part of ESOP agreement, United CEO Wolf resigned and took a consulting job with Lazard Freres, the very investment company he had hired to advise United’s board during the ESOP buyout process…rank and file employees were locked into their stock, which got wiped out in the eventual bankruptcy.” Sounds… promising.

Yet another airline man, Douglas Steenland, was picked by the US Government. The former Northwest Airlines CEO apprently fared better than Wolf, although bankruptcy and incessant labor issues were a hallmark of his firm. Northwest dumped stock on its employees in 1993 and refused to buy it back as promised shortly before Steenland was named to the firm’s top CEO spot. Why is employee ownership such a recurring theme here? Oh right…

Filling out the US Government picks is Ronald Thompson of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association. Thompson provides some of the only auto sector experience on the new Chrysler board (outside of Fiat’s Marchionne and Altavilla), having grown his Midwest Stamping Companyinto a first-tier automotive supplier. Given Chrysler’s abysmal record of supplier relations, let’s hope Thompson can develop a culture of coexistence between ChryCo and its suppliers.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

More by Edward Niedermeyer

Join the conversation
2 of 13 comments
  • Wheeljack Wheeljack on Jul 06, 2009

    If the interiors of the upcoming refreshed Grand Cherokee and 300/Charger as as nice as they look in the pictures on allpar, this should put to rest all of the whining about Chrysler interiors. Furthermore, if they are anywhere near as nice as the interior of the new Ram 1500, then I'd say they are on the right track. Things don't happen overnight - it will take some time to undo the damage that Daimler did.

  • PeteMoran PeteMoran on Jul 07, 2009

    A KKR stooge on the board? Cerberus must be delighted! I hope they all eat each other. BTW, IMHO the 300C is hands down the ugliest car on the road. Riding in one is like diving in a submarine with those tiny side windows. You can't see squat.

  • Bd2 If they let me and the boyz roll around naked in their dealership I'll buy a Chinese car.
  • THX1136 I would not 'knowingly' purchase a Chinese built or brand. I am somewhat skeptical of actual build quality. What I've seen in other Chinese made products show them to be of low quality/poor longevity. They are quite good at 'copying' a design/product, but often they appear to take shortcuts by using less reliable materials and/or parts. And , yes, I know that is not exclusive to Chinese products. When I was younger 'made in Japan' was synonymous with poor quality (check John Entwistle's tune 'Made in Japan' out for a smile). This is not true today as much of Japan's output is considered very favorably and, in some product types, to be of superior quality. I tend to equate the same notion today for things 'made in China'.
  • Mike Beranek No, but I'm for a world where everyone, everywhere buys cars (and everything else) that are sourced and assembled regionally. Shipping big heavy things all over the planet is not a solution.
  • Jeffrey No not for me at this time
  • El scotto Hmm, my VPN and security options have 12-month subscriptions. Car dealers are not accountable to anyone except the owner. Of course, the dealer principles are running around going "state of the art security!", "We need dedicated IT people!" For the next 12 months. The hackers can wait.