So GM’s Chairman now has two jobs, as he revealed in a press conference this Monday morning in Detroit. Many expected the new and now-permanent CEO to name himself, though, as usual in such cases, he gratefully acceded to the Board’s wishes. “I didn’t anticipate doing this, but you sorta get pulled in, …it happened. I feel very comfortable with this company.” He may be in place for two or three years, he said.
What this development means for the company depends on who you read or talk to. Joe Phillippi, an industry consultant, thinks it takes away the uncertainty: “This move tells the troops that Whitacre is the boss and everybody should put on their helmets and march forward.” (Images of World War I come to mind.)
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale professor of management, said it was no secret Whitacre wanted the CEO job: “His ambitions were clear from the beginning when he pulled the rug from beneath an extremely competent CEO.” Meaning Fritz Henderson, who was doing a good job getting the company turned around.
Whitacre clearly wants to take charge and put his stamp on the company’s management. In the press conference, he made news by announcing with some pride that the company would be paying back its $8.1 billion in U.S. and Canadian loans by June. “We have stabilized [our] market share even with the loss of half our brands.” The next milestone for GM, he said, will be an IPO to make it “a public company again.”
There have been rumors that a deal for Saab with Stryker was finally getting done. Whitacre said no, he wasn’t prepared to announce that. “We do not have a deal with Stryker. I’ll let you know if that changes.”
I suppose we should cut the guy some slack. After all, repaying $8 billion in loans is no mean achievement. And he’s bringing on Microsoft’s Chief Financial Officer, Chris Lidell, to run GM’s finances. In other good news from the company, the Volt is due to come in for less than the predicted $40K price tag. According to Boss Whitacre a week ago, the price will be in the low $30s, including the $7,500 federal tax credit. “We’ll get a margin on that,” he said.
What do you think are the chances that Ed Whitacre will succeed with GM?