By on August 6, 2013


Saying it was a personal decision to step back and reassess his priorities, Cadillac vice president for global strategic development Don Butler announced his resignation in an email. “As I’ve told others, I just need to take a step back to recalibrate, reassess my priorities,” Butler said. “I know it’s time for a change but I don’t know what’s next. I’m trusting that God will provide.”

According to the Detroit Free Press, Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell said that Cadillac’s head, Bob Ferguson, had asked Butler to stay on, so his departure is not seen as a house cleaning. As Cadillac tries to grow its brand globally, it now faces the departure of three ranking executives. Butler’s resignation follows the firing a few weeks ago of Chase Hawkins, who was in charge of Cadillac’s U.S. sales for unspecified violations of company policy, and comes just before the announced September resignation of Susan Docherty, who is in charge of Cadillac (and Chevrolet) in Europe.

Butler was a bit of a rising star at GM, which promoted him from Cadillac vice president for U.S. marketing to Cadillac vice president of global strategic development just last April. Butler, who started at GM in 1981, left the company once before, in 2009, to work for a software company, but after running into GM North America president Mark Reuss on the escalator at Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport only six weeks later Reuss was able to convince him to return to the automaker. No word on if Reuss is staking out Metro, though a GM source tells TTAC that Butler’s departure likely stems from his reluctance to spend time on the road. With Cadillac looking to grow in China and Europe, Butler would have to spend a significant amount of time travelling – perhaps more than a family man like Butler may want to endure.

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20 Comments on “Don Butler, Cadillac VP for Global Strategy, Resigns...”

  • avatar

    GM/Cadillac needs to focus on EV and higher fuel efficiency hybrids more than their performance division. Although America has NO political willpower to implement lower-profit alternative energy across the board, these third world dictatorships could get it done quickly and without incident.

    Now that this guy is OUT…they should hire me so I can fire the beancounters and make their cars cooler.

    • 0 avatar

      “GM/Cadillac needs to focus on EV and higher fuel efficiency hybrids more than their performance division”

      I would disagree with that statement in part. While GM is sorely lacking in the hybrids and fuel efficient vehicles, Cadillac is not the brand that needs them the most. It’s the volume brands, Chevy and Buick, that need real hybrids, not some tacked on BAS system.

  • avatar

    One doesn’t give up an easy cruise to a big pension unless something serious is up. I think there’s an outside (foreign) hand in this somewhere along the way.

    • 0 avatar

      “something serious is up”
      What’s up? It’s called working at GM.
      If you’ve never worked there you wouldn’t understand why he wants out.

    • 0 avatar

      The man has about 32 years in at GM, 28 years in his first stint and now 4 more. I’m pretty sure that his pension is already vested and by retiring as a GM VP, it’s probably not an insubstantial sum. I don’t know him well, but Butler has always struck me as a personable, honest guy. The few times that I’ve talked to him he’s been gracious to me and I wish him well.

      • 0 avatar

        He would clearly have a vested pension, but whether he is eligible for early retirement is another question. If he is, the early retirement penalty is generally very steep, unless a person has enough “points” (age + years of service) to qualify for an unreduced pension. As a VP, he’s problably slao covered under a GM SERP program.

        I know nothing about the structure of GM’s pension plans, and don’t know his age, so I have no way of knowing what he is or is not eligible to receive today.

        Note, though, that he is resigning, not retiring, which suggests no immediate pension payment is forthcoming. Also, he’s leaving voluntarily, so there’s not likely to be any form of severance award.

  • avatar

    I understand his interest in traveling less; it’s not conducive to family life.

    Besides, he could work elsewhere with less hassles than GM offers.

  • avatar

    He said “If you get rid of the Cadillac Crest you’ll have to go through me to do it!”

    The next morning…

  • avatar

    Official Executive MBA Weenie translator:

    Want to spend more time with family = I screwed up and was ask to leave.
    Need to reassess my priorities = I got caught with hookers and blow.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Could Don’s reasoning for his resignation be based on the fact that GM CEO Dan Akerson reached out to an old buddy with zero automotive experience, Bob Ferguson, to be VP of Cadillac/global? That Don’s 32 years at GM was bypassed in favor of a telecom ‘genius’ with absolutely no clue how the automobile business works? That Don still must do the heavy lifting at Cadillac while Bob (and Dan) take the credit?

    I’d leave, too.

    Someone looking for a sharp executive with premium division leadership is already putting together an offer sheet. God may be on Don’s side, and I hope so, but it’ll be Hyundai, Kia or Nissan’s Infiniti division signing his paychecks soon.

    • 0 avatar

      Alan Mulally, who came from Boeing, has done well with Ford. At that level, it takes someone who understands how to make the bureaucracy perform. Industry specific knowledge isn’t that important.

      I retired from a big railroad. The best CEO I ever worked for came from an engine manufacturing company. He was all about getting the job done whatever it took. Middle managers, who cared more about their personal fiefdoms than the job, hated his guts. The guys who actually did the work loved him.

      • 0 avatar
        Domestic Hearse

        Mulally has an MA in Engineering from MIT. And reinvented the entire manufacturing process for Boeing during his tenure — one of the most complex and far-flung multi-functional corporations on earth. So coming over to the car business was not a foreign concept to him, and in fact, he was able to bring over best practices from the aerospace/aeronautics industry. He knoweth his shiz.

        I’m sure the CEO you worked for was a good executive. And he proves the exception to the rule that you should know your industry in order to lead in it. However, I think, if you’re inferring that Akerson and Ferguson also exemplify this exception to the rule, you’re mistaken. All reports, official and off-the-record from those within GM and who work closely with the company indicate they’re doing more harm than good, but are too disconnected and un/misinformed to know better.

  • avatar

    I used to joke that when a colleague resigned to Pursue Other Interests that he/she had gone off to POI, Inc.

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