Ed Whitacre, the now-departing CEO of Government General Motors, was a hard guy to like. You know, those aw-shucks attitudes, the laconic and dismissive press conferences, flying back to Texas every weekend. I mean, what kind of boss tells everybody his tenure is temporary?
In announcing his retirement, Whitacre said, “It was my public duty to restore this company to greatness, and I didn’t want to stay a day beyond that.” So he leaves in three weeks. So GM will have its fourth CEO in eighteen months.
Whether the company has been restored to greatness is surely debatable, but you have to give credit to Ed: He’s been totally in charge, making transformations that produced two straight profitable quarters, and he’s put the company on track to a big-bucks public offering coming later this year.
Daniel Akerson—another no-auto-experience, high-finance, turnaround guy—is taking the reins. But in fact the IPO is what the changeover is all about. Whitacre probably made this move, said one analyst, to “[n]ix potential investor unease about chairman and CEO succession.”
In other words, he’s leaving to keep the IPO on track. But in fact, he may have handed off too early. Another commentator remarked:
Akerson would have to lead any IPO road show to talk up the company’s prospects and attract investors to the offering—a burdensome proposition for someone with little tenure on the job.
One person who does know Akerson (right) from GM’s board is Bob Lutz, former GM vice chairman who recently retired. Lutz noted, among other things: “He’s very strong, very opinionated, not always right, and needs to work on listening skills.” Which comments could as well pertain to Maximum Bob.
GM desperately needs a large and successful IPO to repay the government for its 61-percent share of ownership. Said Bloomberg,
GM’s IPO would be the second-largest in U.S. history, behind Visa Inc.’s $19.7 billion initial offering in March 2008. The company aims to sell a fifth of the Treasury’s stake, reducing the U.S. to a minority owner, two people familiar with the plan said in June.
Akerson will now be on point for that.
Would you consider buying stock in the new General Motors? Why, or why not?