GM's Fritz Henderson unexpectedly resigns
UPDATED with statement:
General Motors chief executive Fritz Henderson, who took over the troubled automaker during its government-backed bankruptcy after former chief executive Rick Wagoner resigned at the urging of the White House, is resigning, the company announced moments ago, following the conclusion of a board meeting.
Henderson will be replaced on a temporary basis by GM chairman Ed Whitacre, who became chairman in June, famously saying, "I don't know anything about cars." Whitacre is the former chief executive of AT&T.
Whitacre just read a brief statement thanking Henderson for his years at the company and for doing a "remarkable job leading the company through an unprecedented period of challenge and change."
That being said, Whitacre continued, "we all agreed some changes needed to be made going forward." To that end, Whitacre said, "I have taken over the role of chairman and CEO while we search for a new president and CEO."
Whitacre said that he remains convinced the company is on the right path, but "we need to accelerate our progress to that goal, to return to profitability and repaying the American and Canadian taxpayers as soon as possible."
GM has received or been promised $50 billion in taxpayer money, while GMAC, its former financing arm, has received another $12.5 billion. You can see all the details of GM's taxpayer bailout by clicking here.
Earlier this month, GM reported a third-quarter loss of $1.2 billion.
I'm wondering if this doesn't have something to do with Henderson's inability to change the Old GM into the New GM, which I wrote about last week, a piece you can read by clicking here.
New GM is supposed to be four brands: Chevy, Cadillac, GMC and Buick. That's it. New GM was supposed to let Pontiac die and sell off Hummer, Opel, Saturn and Saab.
Henderson was only able to sell off Hummer. Sales of Saturn and Saab fell through and the board yanked Opel back off the market, possibly undercutting Henderson. All that happened on his watch. There were several external circumstances that broke up the sales, but maybe that's not how the board saw it.
When Whitacre finished reading his statement today, he said: "I know it's short notice, I know I'm not going to take questions, but it's been a hectic day for us. I promise all of your we will make ourselves available in the next few days and spend more time answering your questions. If you'll let me off the hook, I'll see you before long. Is that a fair deal?" Without waiting for a response, he said: "That's a fair deal."
Henderson did not speak on the conference call and it did not seem he was in the room.
Interestingly, it was Whiteacre, not Henderson, who appeared in the most recent GM television commercials.
This is a sudden and unexpected action. Henderson, a GM vet, was not considered on the hot seat.
-- Frank Ahrens
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December 1, 2009; 4:56 PM ET
Categories: The Ticker | Tags: Fritz Henderson, GM, General Motors
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