GM outsider CEO opens door to new outsider

Dan Akerson arrives at General Motors as CEO with the same mandate given to his predecessor just eight months ago...

Written by Reuters | Detroit/new York | Published:August 20, 2010 1:00 am

Dan Akerson arrives at General Motors as CEO with the same mandate given to his predecessor just eight months ago: bring new leadership to an automaker still struggling with the legacy of its government bailout.

Akerson replaces Ed Whitacre in an abrupt shake-up GM announced just a day before it had planned to file for a politically charged stock offering expected to be one of the largest ever. The suddenness of Whitacre’s departure— just a day after a meeting of the top US automaker’s board and announced at an improvised teleconference for reporters and financial analysts—stunned insiders.

GM’s financial advisers scrambled to rewrite complicated paperwork to take Whitacre out and put Akerson in,a person with knowledge of the process said. Whitacre,who served as CEO at AT&T and steered it through key mergers,remains GM chairman until the end of the year. He had been expected to quit after guiding GM through an IPO to reduce the U.S. government’s 61% ownership stake. Just a week ago,Whitacre said he had not given any thought to resigning. “Everybody knows at my age I’m not a real longtimer,” he told reporters.

At GM,Whitacre became famous for spurning the PowerPoint presentations that had become a symbol of the slow decision-making process at the 102-year-old automaker. After GM’s top executives were blasted for being out

of touch,Whitacre took pains to mix with workers,showing up unannounced in offices and factories. But Whitacre’s hands-off style of delegating also left him appearing sometimes out of touch.

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