Whitacre reshuffle moves up women, younger talent

08:34, December 08, 2009      

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General Motors Co Chairman Ed Whitacre turned to a new team that includes younger executives and more women as he tries to overhaul the automaker's "inbred" culture and halt annual losses dating to 2005.

Engineering chief Mark Reuss, 46, was promoted to president of GM's North American operations and Susan Docherty, 47, one of three women promoted, added marketing to her sales duties. Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz, 77, ceded those responsibilities and will be an advisor to Whitacre.

"It's a signal they are serious about getting younger people in and running the place right," said Thomas Stallkamp, 63, industrial partner at buyout firm Ripplewood Holdings LLC and a member of the team that helped restructure Chrysler Corp in the 1990s. "This is a culture that was so inbred, so genteel, people were afraid to speak up."

Whitacre, 68, has said in media interviews and in meetings with staffers that employees need to shed GM's culture and hasten efforts to cut costs and regain market share. The former chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc reiterated the pledge this week as his board ousted Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson and Whitacre became interim CEO.

"Most of what has occurred this week at General Motors is about speeding things up and making people more accountable for the decisions they make," John Wolkonowicz, an analyst at consultant IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, told Bloomberg Television.

Nick Reilly, 59, will lead GM's European business, the Detroit-based automaker said yesterday in a statement on its website. Tim Lee, 58, replaces Reilly as president of international operations. Whitacre also will use director Stephen Girsky, 47, as an advisor, people familiar with the plans said.

Reuss served as president and managing director of Holden in Australia prior to being appointed head of global engineering in July. He will give an update on GM's business on today, the company said. Whitacre, who was originally slated to deliver the briefing, had a scheduling change, said Tom Wilkinson, a GM spokesman.

"I know this leadership team can count on you to step up and be responsible, do the right thing and together we can move forward," Whitacre said yesterday in a broadcast to employees. "We can have a good time doing it."

Whitacre, who took the chairman's job as GM left Chapter 11 in July, has said he wants to start repaying federal loans early. The US government is owed $6.7 billion and owns a 61 percent stake in the biggest domestic automaker, which still expects an initial public offering in 2010's second half.

More women

Docherty, promoted to chief of sales in October from the head of the Buick GMC division, was appointed vice-president of vehicle sales, service and marketing. She takes some of the duties Lutz had handled since July.

Tom Stephens, 61, remains vice-chairman of global product operations and will add global purchasing to his duties.

Diana Tremblay, 50, becomes vice-president of manufacturing and labor relations. Denise C. Johnson, 43, most recently vehicle line director and chief engineer for global small cars, was named vice-president of labor relations.

Source: China Daily
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