New GM chief Daniel Akerson not usual 'car guy'
He's been CEO of three other companies, but none
in heavy manufacturing, the heart and soul of a car
company. Akerson isn't a self-professed "car guy,"
the kind with gasoline in the veins that
traditionalists say is necessary to really run a car
GM EARNS $1.3B: Whitacre steps down after 2nd
His current job is high in the obscure world of
private equity — emphasis on "private" — at the
Carlyle Group, where he's a managing director.
No automotive background. No heavy
manufacturing experience. No operating track
record at GM; just his involvement in board
activities. Still, he might be exactly right for the job.
"He's well connected in the financial community" just
as GM is preparing an initial public offering of
stock, notes Joseph Phillippi, head of Auto Trends
Consulting based in Short Hills, N.J.
Phillippi and others expect GM to file the IPO
registration today. GM wouldn't say.
If the Securities and Exchange Commission
approves the IPO, the U.S. and Canadian
governments, the United Auto Workers and the
pension fund could sell their GM shares to private i
nvestors, hoping to pay themselves back for
rescuing GM from bankruptcy.
The surprise pick to take over as CEO of General
Motors on Sept. 1 is such an unknown that GMers
weren't even sure Thursday how to pronounce his
They decided it's AACK-er-son: Daniel Akerson, 61,
a member of the automaker's board of directors
since last July.
The automaker went through Chapter 11
reorganization last summer. The rescuers divvied
500 million shares of common stock in the new,
post-Chapter-11 GM. The U.S. government —
taxpayers — got 60.8%, or 300 million shares.
Akerson was one of five new directors that the
institutional owners of GM installed last year.
In what amounted to a breathtaking surprise,
current CEO Edward Whitacre, 68, announced
Thursday that he'll step down Sept. 1, and Akerson w
ill replace him. "It was my plan all along ... to help
return this company to greatness, and I didn't want
to stay a day beyond that," Whitacre said during a
conference call Thursday with reporters and
The conference call was to discuss GM's second-
quarter earnings of $1.3 billion, its second-
consecutive quarter in the black.
"Ed and I share a common vision for the company,
where it is today and where we hope to take it in the
future," Akerson said.
Detailing his priorities or his plans for a post-
Whitacre GM "would be premature," Akerson said.
"Ed is acting like a good turnaround person should.
He came in and did what he was supposed to and
found a person he was comfortable with and is
leaving the company in good hands," says Detroit-
area turnaround expert James McTevia of McTevia &
Akerson will be GM's fourth CEO since May 2009,
so, "the issue for GM is stability," says Michael
Robinson, senior vice president at Levick Strategic
Communications. GM needs "a leader who is going
to unpack his boxes and stay put."
That continuity and commitment makes workers
more confident, productive. And, Phillippi notes, it
gives potential investors confidence in GM that
translates into a higher price for the initial stock
offering. Akerson will be viewed as "an outsider
coming in with strong management skills while the
place is running extremely well."
Ford Motor has about 3.4 billion shares of common
stock outstanding, trading around $12 lately. That
makes Ford worth about $40 billion. The
assumption is that a healthy GM would be worth
about the same, making the 500 million shares
worth at least $80 each. But the U.S. needs close to
$170 per share to cover approximately $50 billion
in taxpayer money it has put into GM.
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