By on August 12, 2010

GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre just announced during GM’s Q2 financial conference call that he will step down as CEO on September 1, and as Chairman at the end of 2010. GM board member Dan Akerson will take over both of Whitacre’s position. Whitacre called Akerson “very involved” and said he expects a smooth transition. Whitacre planned to leave after “returning GM to greatness,” and says that “with a good foundation in place,” he’s ready to leave. The board’s been aware of Whitacre’s plan, and the board was ready to act when Whitacre said he was ready to step down. Akerson says he and Whitacre “share a vision” for GM, so instead of setting an agenda now, he’s focusing on a smooth transition. Akerson noted that Whitacre “had made some management changes” already, and he’s confident in his “deep bench.” The major transition, he says, “is me,” because he needs to gain a day-to-day, operational perspective on the business.

All told, Akerson, who was Head of Global Buyout for the Carlyle Group before joining GM’s board in July of last year, seems to not have a clear agenda developed for his leadership of GM. Whitacre, it seems, was but the hatchet man, and having shaken up management, Akerson seems content to keep GM rolling along the path that Whitacre has laid out. Like Whitacre, he does not have industry experience, and a transition period in which he becomes familiar with day-to-day GM operations seems inevitable. Whether he eventually takes GM in a new direction won’t likely be clear until he has at least assumed the CEO job, as he notes that “Ed is still in charge right now.”

Whitacre emphasized that GM’s board knew that he didn’t plan on staying, and yet no effort appears to have been made to find a CEO from outside the organization. Why Akerson was selected was not clear, other than that he allowed the board to make an easy decision and a smooth transition. Overall, the perception seems to be that GM is profitable and under control, and that settling into cruise control makes perfect sense at this point. With GM making money in a weak market environment, and with 30-40 percent more production capacity available without a strong ramp-up in fixed costs, there’s a certain case for this perspective. On the other hand, Opel and Daewoo are still in deep trouble, unfunded pensions loom, and GM’s North American fleet sales are clearly being boosted by incentives and daily rental fleet sales. Akerson is going to have to show something other than a caretaker’s perspective if GM’s turnaround is going to overcome these obstacles.

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82 Comments on “BREAKING: Ed Whitacre To Step Down As GM Chairman/CEO...”

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Back to business as usual, I see.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Are there any good free agent CEO’s out there that could successfully take over GM?

  • avatar

    LOL… the endless game of musical chairs continues…

    Fare thee well, Grandpa Ed. Perhaps you’re not so “Whitless” after all. It’s probably smart you’re “bailing out” now on a high, before it all comes crashing down on GM yet again.

  • avatar

    Tap the top personnel at Jack-in-the-box or Apple – two companies with great turn-arounds. Excellent branding strategies.

  • avatar

    So this Akerson sounds like a real car guy.

    • 0 avatar

      Car guys are not what GM needs.

      GM, in all honestly, needed (and still does need) someone who is accountable, brutal and decisive. Whitaker was actually pretty good this way: in his (short) tenure he seemed to hold GM’s upper management to account and take actual action, which is very, very different from his last, oh, four or five predecessors.

  • avatar

    Maybe Joe Isuzu is available for GM’s CEO slot. The company will need someone with a flexible commitment to telling the truth.

  • avatar

    Hey, at least he’s an engineer.

    How long has it been since GM had a degreed engineer in the top spot?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Mark Hurd of Hewlett Packard has recently become available :).

    This is just too weird.

  • avatar

    Wow! He’s so tough he even fired himself! Now that’s holding people accountable!

  • avatar

    Are people taking this CEO job just to get the lifetime of perks that goes with leaving it? It seems like a revolving door.

  • avatar

    Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. You know, it’s be great if GM hired a ‘car guy’ like DeLorian or Iacocca who would be given the authority to hack and slash though upper management and bring GM back to the glory days.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree! Here’s one vote for John DeLorean’s corpse as the next Gov’t Motors CEO.

    • 0 avatar

      LOL Rob. Almost fell off my chair laughing at that one.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry Rob, JZD’s-corpse just issued a press-release stating that it has thrown it’s hand into the ring for the 2012 presidential race… but from what I could see on theonion, the Reagan Zombie may still be available …,14385/ (in that piece, I just love the line, IIRiC, about Jindal: “channeling his inner zombie”)

  • avatar

    I expect Whitacre is going straight to Washington. The sinking Obamanites need to change some public faces, and hope Ed can give them a bit of a non-socialist/statist halo. The message will be, “We’re visionary, businesslike, and competent!”

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I can’t understand why this would be a good thing for the company or its shareholders in the short term.

    The new CEO (the 4th in the last 18 months) is a private equity guy from Carlyle Group, a buy-out firm famous for its exquisite political connections. Maybe he can solve GMs problems, maybe he can pull off a successful IPO. I would fell better about it, if he had run the company for a couple of full years before being tasked with an IPO.

    • 0 avatar

      The sole job of the new guy is to ‘financial engineering’ a respectable IPO to present a fig leaf so every layman would believe the great bailout is a good thing to the main street. Unfortunately, as it happens more often than not, it inevertibly benefits the Wall Street more than the main street.

    • 0 avatar

      Who better to have at the helm during an IPO and sale to the Chinese than a guy familiar with the workings of turn-and-flip?

  • avatar

    Whenever I see the name “Whitacre,” in my mind appears the name “Potemkin.” Strange.

  • avatar

    This is an odd case. I see Obama’s hand all over this, but Akerson is historically a GOP backer. So maybe Obama’s hand isn’t all over it?

    Daniel F. Akerson
    Born: c. 1948

    Gender: Male
    Race or Ethnicity: White
    Occupation: Business
    Party Affiliation: Republican

    Nationality: United States
    Executive summary: The Carlyle Group

    Net worth estimated at $190M by Virginia Business.

    University: BS Engineering, US Naval Academy (1970)
    University: MSc Economics. London School of Economics

    Carlyle Group Managing Director (2003-)
    XO Communications CEO (1999-2003)
    Nextel CEO (1996-2001)
    General Instrument CEO (1993-95)
    Forstmann Little & Co. General Partner (1993-)
    MCI President and COO (1992-93)
    MCI EVP and CFO (1987-90)
    MCI Executive variously (1983-93)
    Member of the Board of American Express (1995-)
    Member of the Board of General Instrument (as Chairman, 1993-95)
    Member of the Board of Hawaiian Telcom
    Member of the Board of Nextel (as Chairman, 1996-2001)
    Member of the Board of Time Warner
    Member of the Board of United Components
    Member of the Board of Willcom
    Member of the Board of XO Communications (1999-2003)
    Bush-Cheney ’04
    The Freedom Project
    John McCain 2008
    McCain for Senate ’98
    McCain-Palin Compliance Fund
    McCain Victory Committee
    National Republican Congressional Committee

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think Barack Obama, or even Ron Bloom, had anything to do with this. Why would they fire Whitacre? And he wouldn’t fire himself. I think he is leaving on his own.

    • 0 avatar

      Member of the Board of Hawaiian Telcom, Nextel, Time Warner, Willcom
      XO Communications…

      Oh goody. Five out of the 7 companies listed are bankrupt, bereft of any strategy, also-rans in their industry. If this is where he got his leadership experience, it’s NOT a positive sign for raising GM from the ashes.

      /Telecom veteran

  • avatar

    Weird. I would have thought Ed would hold on for the payday of an IPO. There must be more to the story, perhaps a dust up with Bloom or something. Liddell must be kind of pissed too. He must have had designs on the job.

    I assume this is not officially an interim role now? or is random PE guy the permanent CEO?

    It is also weird that they let the roles of CEO and chairman be combined.

  • avatar

    Mickey Mouse would have been a more appropriate choice since that reflects how GM is managed.

  • avatar

    Maybe this is a realization that what GM is becoming is not so much a car company as a roulette table for financial markets and the government.

    The Board has a pot of money to play with, so they go out and get some guy that they think can manage the money and keep the company above water. Then maybe one day they can be some kind of shape to being a car guy in.

    This is a classic money mgt. hire for the political left that runs the country, even if he is/was a McCain supporter. Don’t build anything, shuffle chips over the board.

  • avatar

    Rat leaving the ship. The new guy might be called a Republican but if he was Carlyle Group he is a statist, with who you know rather than what you know as the biggest reason for any success. Success is defined as how much he makes rather than how healthy the company is of course. He is just like Ed, a crony capitalist who will run to his masters in Washington for help every chance he gets. If you can’t compete honestly then go to DC and have them hamstring your competitors.

  • avatar

    returning GM to greatness

    Hey BuickMan… Did you get royalties for that one!

    Ed’s got balls actually saying that.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually it reflects the level of his delusion, or the extent of his dementia, to Claim (and likely believe) that …

    • 0 avatar

      remember who called out Red Ink Rick before it was fashionable? the same person that proclaimed Reuss gets it.

      “Return to Greatness” is happening…stabilized incentives, no Red Toe Tags, VSSM personnel working in dealers, all DM’s to Detroit, LOIs, electronic communication for customers with retail sold order.

      Thank you Big Ed for instituting accountablility at GM, making the changes that were needed, and for going the “Extra Mile”….

      to be continued….

  • avatar

    Can we please have some kind of filter on ‘Obama’? I swear to god, if I see one more unrelated car industry news post followed up with this, “OMG OBAMA SOCIALIST WE DEMAND THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE” crap, I’m going to shoot myself in the eyeball.

    • 0 avatar

      Go easy on them, perisoft. Todays news is a tough swallow for the hard right, GM bashers. They have a tough enough time getting thier head around the fact that your President, and the previous one done the right thing with the Auto bailout.

    • 0 avatar


      Hard right? Have you seen the comments about the Carlyle Group?

      Bush and Obama haters are here, sure, but you can’t deny that crony capitalism is alive and well in America (and very much party independent), and the banks and GM bailouts are demonstrable examples of that. Not sure if you knew this, but the gov’t forced several banks to accept bailout money. Know why? The gov’t didn’t want us (yes, you and I) to know which banks were really in trouble because they were afraid of bank runs.

      In other words, they were too big to fail. Know who’s not too big to fail? Everybody else, especially entrepreneurs. Screw the little guy is the MO, unless he’s connected and then all bets are off.

      And why is Tesla, the manufacturer of 100k sports cars, getting gov’t guaranteed loans and rates you and I can’t get? If they need a loan, head on down to Wells Fargo! That’s what the rest of business does.

    • 0 avatar

      “Can we please have some kind of filter on ‘Obama’?” Yes, but only if we can also have a filter for Tea Party and Palin, etc. It’s so bad over on Auto Blog that you can have a story about a recalled window washer and someone wants to blame it on the Tea Party.

    • 0 avatar


      I hear you. This high finace stuff is too deep for my blue collar, uneducated brain to fathom. I agree with you though, it seems that no matter where they are positioned on the political spectrum,greed usually rules.

    • 0 avatar

      Perisoft – but don’t you know that this is a conspiracy engineered by the Bush Republicans to benefit the Saudi royal family, as well as a plot to enrich the UAW, friends of the socialist Obama Democrats, who obviously must be in cahoots with Halliburton? I believe that Elvis Presley, Adolf Hitler and Joe McCarthy have launched this latest World Order plot from their taco stand in Caracas, funded by Hugo Chavez.

      Mikey – the GM haters will never let up, just like the Toyota and Ford haters. Give up; it’s easier just to filter out the obvious haters.

      JKRoss22 – and that is why the real people in charge have us all focused on shit like this, so they can go about their business destroying the middle class across the globe. There’s Republicans and Democrats, and then there’s the real party in charge – the uber wealthy, who play us like pawns.

    • 0 avatar

      No, keep them. In a way it’s fun because you get to watch people either a) squirm as they try to reconcile their political leanings with their automotive preferences, or b) actually come out an be honest about what they value more, “Chevy, America and Apple Pie” or ideological purity.

      I’m actually really impressed with the number of former-domestic fans who put ideology first. I honestly didn’t think it would have expected the volume.

      Mind you, I don’t think there would be nearly the cries of “Government Motors” had McCain, and not Obama, won the 2008 election.

  • avatar

    The Carlyle Group is a front the the Saudi Royal Family that George H.W. Bush is so heavily involved. This is probably why they are so sure the ‘all at once’ IPO will go well. The Saudis will be buying GM.

    Does America own anything in America anymore?

  • avatar

    “returning GM to greatness,”

    Huh? Did I blink or something?

  • avatar

    That’s too bad. I kind of liked Whitacre.

  • avatar

    Hats off to Ed Whitacre. Rebuilding that “deep bench” of management talent is exactly what GM needs to prosper. A “car guy” at the top is nice, but if that person is incapable of sizing up talent, leading with a vision and being accountable then the company will fail. Ed Whitacre has proven all the armchair analysts wrong. Now if the new guy would just combine Buick and Cadillac dealers to provide a best-in-class customer experience while axing redundant (old GM-think) GMC I’ll be very impressed.

  • avatar

    It’s hilarious how Gov’t Motors can’t get through a single news cycle with a feel-good story about a big profit, without a bigger story about the chaos still rampant underneath. Nice job, Whitacre.

    Setting aside that glaring misstep, I’m struck by the wonderful success story Gov’t Motors so obviously is. I mean, it’s almost Capraesque. Just goes to show how even the most miserable company can turn itself around… as long as the feds hand billions of taxpayer dollars to it…

    As another poster said — If the feds forgave my bills, I’d be rolling in bucks too.

  • avatar

    For now, I’m trying not to get outraged. I agree with Mikey that if DC had allowed GM to crash & burn, things would be even worse. The whole infrastructure of the auto industry would have failed or needed even more support. I’ll give both Bush and Obama kudos for that.

    The reality is that GM is in no way out of the woods. They can’t make it through retail sales, Opel is going down fast, and I get the queasy feeling we’re going to find out about even worse things in the weeks/months to come. I suppose all of that should be no surprise, but Carlyle Group running things is a bad sign. Plus I suspect Big Eddie will get as much of a payday for his trouble as Red Ink Rick did.

    OK, that’s how the big boys play. But if GM crawls to us in a year or two for more money while the strings are being pulled in Riyadh, I’m with the Tea Party and ready to yell “no more” to this.

  • avatar

    So has Dan Akerson quit Carlyle or is he holding both jobs?

  • avatar

    Just another establishment hack from the Carlyle Group…Just like at Chrysler. I bet the USA federal mafia will not sell all it’s stolen shares of GM and will retain a 20% stake. USA-style Fascism.

  • avatar

    I was always skeptical that Whitacre was the right guy for the job, but he did clean house and make some people accountable.

    Akerson seems like a downgrade, though. GM should at least get a manufacturing guy like a Mullaly, not another CFO type.

    You know who would have been really interesting?

    Wait for it….

    Bob Lutz!

  • avatar

    So what will his golden parachutte cost? Dick Wagger got 10 million for his exit when GM had declared bankruptcy. Now that they have 60 billion in tax payer money, Government Motors has more to pay out.

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    It doesn’t matter. In my mind GM doesn’t even exist. There WAS a company called GM up to a couple of years ago. That company was at one time the very, well, Cadillac of businesses. And then corruption, greed, and incompetence crept in, greatly illustrated in a recent CC of the CC. We all watched it decend into oblivion. But a funny thing happened on the way down. At the very last moment the laws of business, of finance, even law itself were suspended. And the hand of “God” swooped down, grabbed GM from the bottom of the porcelain orifice and magically washed it clean of all its sins. It’s sins were then skewered to the very people who had learned of it’s bad character and worked hard to avoid it.

    • 0 avatar

      When I talk to my dad’s generation who worked there, and they talk about the 50’s and 60’s there was a real can-do attitude by GM people, but by the 70’s something snapped, up high at the top. I never saw the good GM by the time I was in automotive, and I dreaded dealing with GM people (80’s onward). Their careers seemed more important than the vehicle’s successful launch. Lowest cost always won even when they knew a supplier didn’t meet spec. That’s when I Googled “GM Deathwatch” on a whim and found TTAC. By the time I left auto in the mid 00’s, it was actually the worst I’d ever seen. I remember opening the hood on a brand new car, and there was already corrosion coming through the paint in the engine compartment.

  • avatar

    This will be interesting as private equity and labor go head to head in campaign contributions to see who can buy the most influence in Washington.

    Unless cost cutting is the name of the game, hiring a PE guy makes little sense. I guess it’s easier than actually developing good products

  • avatar

    Yes indeed, taking a page out of the book “How to Win a Modern War”, Big Ed declared victory and scarpered for the exit, merely on the hint of winning a skirmish in Q2.

    Well done, sir, you old prune. Good riddance in my book.

  • avatar

    “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”

  • avatar

    I do think that Whittaker has done a pretty good job – probably as well as anyone could do under the circumstances.

    However, I’m concerned about the
    “needs to gain a day-to-day, operational perspective on the business.” quote.

    This paragraph from the story above seems to pretty well sum things up:

    All told, Akerson, who was Head of Global Buyout for the Carlyle Group before joining GM’s board in July of last year, seems to not have a clear agenda developed for his leadership of GM. Whitacre, it seems, was but the hatchet man, and having shaken up management, Akerson seems content to keep GM rolling along the path that Whitacre has laid out. Like Whitacre, he does not have industry experience. . .”

    For some reason this analogy comes to mind: It’s like they changed Captains on the Titanic after they hit the iceberg. The new captain has started the pumps… but is now handing control over to another new captain, while he heads for the boats. This 3rd captain has promised to continue manning the pumps just like the last captain did, while he learns about ships.

  • avatar

    WOW, I can’t believe there is NO cheerleading form Christry Garwood @ GM.
    Silence IS golden

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe Christy and other GM loyalists saw this announcement as yet another “oh [email protected]&t” moment. I’m sure we’ll hear from them.

    • 0 avatar

      Haven’t seen Christy in a coon’s-age… I had wondered if she had been gagged by the Corporation…

    • 0 avatar

      I hope not. She (or he?) did a much more effective job in delivering GM messages than their corporate communications department. Hey, wait a sec….wouldn’t that be even more reason to for a gag order?

    • 0 avatar
      Christy Garwood

      Gee, thanks for missing me! @Robert.Walter, no gag order and I haven’t heard the term ‘coon’s-age’ since I moved from IN to MI some umpteen years ago, thanks for the memories, LOL.

      @bomberpete, I am going to copy your appraisal of my performance and share it with my manager in the hopes of getting a good raise (from all that taxpayer funded money, including the taxes I paid). Just agitatin’ a bit ala Robert Farago.

      Now to my personal opinion regarding Ed Whitacre. I will miss him. He brought sincerity, integrity, accountability, and leadership to this company that I had never seen.

      I know nothing about Mr. Akerson other than what you all can find on the internet. I am not in the habit of voicing an opinion without facts or knowledge, if you hadn’t noticed.

      One fact I have not seen stated here yet is that Mr. Akerson was appointed as a director to GM’s Board to represent the US Treasury.

      Remember, I have no crystal ball, just my own musings. From what I see about Mr. Akerson on the internet ( connection chart), he would be good for drumming up investors at the time of an IPO, whenever that may be. And Mr. Liddell has excellent skills in running a tight financial ship. Both will be needed to navigate this ship you all want to call Titanic through IPO waters.

      I pose this what if: after the IPO is as snug as a bug in a rug, we get yet another CEO? This time it is Mr. Liddell and it meets whatever handshake agreements were made, if any, regarding his aspirations to be CEO at GM.

      In the mean time, there are a whole bunch of folks designing, building and selling the world’s best vehicles, and we are doing it at a profit, and our average transaction price is moving up, and our US market share ticked up ~1%.

      Of all the days I have worked at GM, this counts as one of the better ones.

    • 0 avatar

      Christy, really now.

      You’re entitled to your company-scrubbed opinion, of course… but “building and selling the world’s best vehicles” is just silly hubris that no one (except perhaps mikey) really believes.

      GM quality is better than it was, no question… but you’re all still FAR from “world’s best.” You’ve made great strides, but started out from the sub-basement of the industry.

  • avatar

    Thanks Christy – I’m sure you’ve had quite a day.

    I’m glad to have your own better-informed insight of what could happen contrast with my somewhat ill-informed musings. Also, good luck with getting the raise. Since part of that money is “mine,” I think you deserve it!

  • avatar
    cole carrera

    I really do wonder why him. Perhaps Carlyle owns suppliers.

  • avatar

    Alan Mullaly was not a ‘car guy’, and he’s done pretty well at Ford.

    GM may or may not need a car guy at the top, but they certainly need them in Marketing.

    I wish Mr. Akerson great success.

  • avatar

    Was hoping for Penske, but oh well. Great companies are led by people with vision, period. Republican, Democrat, as long as the vision is translated into something your customer can understand on a gut level. Otherwise (as is the case with most large corporations) you’re just trying to juggle numbers and tweak processes to protect the status quo (protective human nature). Naturally this mentality usually leads to the dreaded crony capitalism more often than it leads to innovation. I always ask myself when I look at someone in a leadership role, “does this person have a vision people are rallying around?” or “is this person so risk averse they could never even start their own small business?” 99 times out of 100 it’s the latter situation. If you’re the head of a company and you’re only experienced in managing what already exists, rather than driving towards a vision, you’re doomed. That’s why there are so few Penske, Mullaly, Branson, Jobs types. I read somewhere that a people without a vision perish.

  • avatar

    Bankruptcy is like liposuction. The patient looks good for a while with all that fat gone. And he or she resolves that it is going to stay that way for the rest of their life.

    But it doesn’t. The fat creeps back on. After all, there is a reason why the patient got fat in the first place. And liposuction does nothing to change that.

    What about those who are betting that GM has returned to greatness? I think they are foolish. I’ll not be buying any GM stock. And I think it’s a crime that tax money was given to GM to suck out its fat in the first place.

  • avatar

    people actually fired at GM, LaNeve and Docherty out of marketing, Reuss in charge of North America, at least the direct loan repaid to the government, a CFO brought in who actually understands financial reporting, two quarters of solid profit, European operations headed to breakeven, and an IPO in the works.

    yes there are some questions like why surrender control of China for $85 million, but on the whole Mr Whitacre did a lot for GM. for the first time in decades there is accountability for performance and we are seeing results instead of excuses.

    oh, and add in that incentives are now good for 60 days instead of 6 minutes, no Red Toe Tag sales on Memorial Day and 4th of July, Cadillac execs put to work in dealerships for real world experience, letters of intent reopening franchises, and an outsider whiz kid hired in to run sales.

    yeah, you did ok EW.

  • avatar

    Whitacre stepping down now comes as quite a shock to me. I’m quite surprised he didn’t stay for the IPO but instead chose to step down right before it. Would be interesting to hear his reason(s) but I doubt that will happen at least anytime soon.

    I agree with everything Buickman said about Whitacre. Given Whitacre’s short tenure I think he accomplished quite a bit.

    Whitacre’s sudden departure qualifies as one of the more mysterious events in recent industry history to me. He spoke at the Mackinaw conference only last week. I would think if he planned to exit so quickly he would have passed on that appearance since public speaking didn’t exactly seem to be his strong suit at GM.

  • avatar

    Wonder if he had missed the German imports?

  • avatar

    I agree with Buickman that Whitacre deserves credit for instilling accountability and making tremendous strides in this country’s 2nd most impossible bureaucracy (I’d rank the Federal Govt. as #1).

    I don’t like the mindless GM-bashing that goes on here, but the skeptic in me is suspicious of the announcement’s timing. Sure, I can accept that Big Eddie never intended to stay all that long. But 14 months? C’mon! I’m getting the same queasy feeling as seeing Bush in a jumpsuit declaring “mission accomplished,” followed by High Fives and chest-thumping.

    Seriously, if Big Eddie really wanted to get the job done, why not go through the IPO, the Cruze and Volt launches, getting Europe sorted out, and the finding of a genuinely suitable long-term successor? The guy’s rich and retired, and he’s not in any rush to go elsewhere. If things are so hunky-dory at RenCen, who cares if he commutes from Texas for another year?

    I fear the 3rd and 4th quarter earnings will show some ugliness that Whitacre’s looking to distant himself from. I really, REALLY hope I’m wrong, but Daanii2’s liposuction comment may prove to be a fair one.

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