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Whitacre names two new GM lobbyists, builds his team

Posted by: David Welch on December 30, 2009


General Motors Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre is putting his stamp all over the company. It hasn’t been a month since the board fired CEO Fritz Henderson and already Whitacre has promoted a handful of executives and brought in three new hires. Today, he named John Montford and Robert Ferguson as his two top lobbyists in Washington. They’re both former AT&T guys, which shouldn’t surprised anyone since Whitacre ran the telecom giant before retiring and later joining GM.

Whitacre is building a team while searching for a new CEO. That raises a big question: How much of management will be Whitacre’s choosing when the future CEO is finally hired? It depends on how long Whitacre keeps the job for himself. But it looks like a lot of the top brass will be his selections. I talked this over with three top executive recruiters, who didn’t want to be named since they have worked for GM in the past. All of them cautioned that the longer Whitacre keeps the job and puts his people in place, the tougher it will be to attract CEO candidates. First, the new CEO will either have to keep Whitacre’s team or initiate yet another round of turnover, thus creating more instability. Second, Whitacre’s activism could lead some candidates to believe that the Chairman will be on their shoulder second guessing their moves, the three recruiters told me.

Just look at Whitacre’s actions so far. Today, he hired two new lobbyists. Last week he grabbed erstwhile Microsoft CFO Christopher Liddell as GM’s Vice Chairman and CFO. A few days after the board fired Henderson on Dec. 1, Whitacre named a new president of GM-North America, a top sales and marketing executive, a boss for GM-Europe and new managers for every brand except Cadillac. This is Whitacre’s management team.

That’s not to say that Whitacre is making the wrong moves. It should come as no surprised that he replaced the leadership of GM’s Washington office. GM had a tough time getting government loans out of Washington. Now-fired CEO Rick Wagoner didn’t do so well late last year when he went to Washington looking for a loan. He made a case that Detroit’s failure would be too damaging to the economy. But Congress asked him for a viability plan and repayment guarantee that he couldn’t furnish. After the initial hearings, GM twice had to submit viability plans before the Obama Administration’s Auto Task Force signed off on it and gave the company and rival Chrysler the money they needed. The government eventually fired Wagoner.

So Whitacre is bringing in his own people. He is shaking things up. That is arguably needed for a company that has been set in its ways for too long. But if Whitacre is serious about hiring a new CEO, he might want to find someone soon so that the new top executive can shape his own team and put his own stamp on the company.

Reader Comments


December 31, 2009 1:33 AM

Maybe instead of spending $ on lobbyist, spend money on making a good car. But it's probably too late for that, so it's better to go to the govt and demand more $.


December 31, 2009 12:43 PM

GM needs to build cars with quality, reliability, and affordability. Without all three, it won't matter who Whitacre hires.

Robert S

December 31, 2009 1:29 PM

I am really not sure Whitacre was the right guy for the GM job. He made a terrible strategic decision to not go fiber like Verizon did and now Verizon has the more dependable, expandable, and cost effective network that can handle the load that iPhone and multimedia intensive applications demand from AT&T. On the other hand, he did orchestrate the expansion of SW Bell to the behemoth it is today. He knows how to handle the chemistry between union and management well. I personally think the problems at GM are fundamental. They need good ideas and great quality product that are forward thinking. Value, quality, design, technology. GM products just plain suck and every time you buy a GM car they slash their new car prices so much that your new/used car is worth half what you paid for it.


January 8, 2010 11:56 AM

Robert S- The thing to think about is that there is no real ATT anymore. ATT is nothing but a rebadging of other telecomm companies. As GM is the king of badge engineering, it should be a perfect fit!


January 25, 2010 6:14 PM

Shame on GM! As a single mom of two working as a nurse traveling from house to house to check on our sick elderly, I am out of a vehicle and possibly a job. After turning in my lease vehicle early voluntarily GM put their nasty attorneys out for blood to collect the remainder of the lease. Not only did I put down 1500 which is gone, I tried to negotiate a lease to fit my budget or purchase a vehicle. To no avail, I was threaten with court and wage garnishment. When I turned in the vehicle I was unemployed and going into foreclosure Now that I am trying to get back on my feet they will not negotiate, just want their money! When will all this stimulus and bailout trickle down to the hardworking middle class. Plus the new vehicle I was driving needed service four times in one year. A new transmission had to be put in among other things! Not happy with GM!!!!!!!!!!!

Kim Chan Jin.

February 20, 2010 8:32 AM

New GM.
CEO, Edward E. Whitacre.
Thank you.
I am sending this letter to for New GM development and
a victory.

Please this letter to New CEO, Edward E. Whitacre.

I am Kim Chan Jin(62), Live in Seoul Korea.

Dear, CEO, Whitacre.
1. GM is the pillar of America’s automobile industry.
2. I am approaching you for I have a strategic plan in sales of the American car industry (GM).
3. Whether GM goes bankrupt or not, cars must be continuously sold.
4. Therefore, I would like to request just one thing.
5. Give me the authorization to sell cars in the US I have an idea.
6. It’s quite difficult to face that automobile sales are sluggish in the home of the car industry. However it is not only because of the economic crisis.
7. I desire to be of the slightest help.
8. Little help can become great motivations.
9. What’s important is that the sales of automobile increases.                              10. I would like to discuss the matters in person for this letter can not express all what I have in sight. I hope for a successful result and I will await your reply.     Thank you.   God bless you.

Yours Sincerely
Sender: Kin Chan Jin (김찬진,62)                            February,  20.  2010.
e-mail :
Phone: 82-2-568-2117.     Call: 82-10-4731-3857.
Address: 661-1,304.yeoksam dong, Gangnam gu. Seoul Korea. 135-913.     

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