BREAKING: GM CEO Fritz Henderson Steps Down6
That didn’t take long: after being the CEO and President of General Motors for the last eight months, Fritz Henderson is stepping down. In the meantime, Chairman Ed Whitacre is taking over Henderson’s duties in the Renaissance Center headquarters on a daily basis. Whitacre said that “an international search for a new president and CEO begins immediately.”
GM last saw a change in chief executive officers when Rick Wagoner was asked to resign by the Obama Administration’s Task Force for Autos in April of 2009.
The GM Authority Take
At the present time it is unclear why Henderson has resigned. Whitacre has been quoted as saying that the board is was going to give Fritz an opportunity to showcase his abilities. In several interviews with reporters, Whitacre has even voiced support for Henderson: “As Mr. Whitacre has stated several times, Mr. Henderson has the full support of the board,” GM spokeswoman Renee Rashid-Merem said.
But while that’s the public face to the internal affairs at GM, it is possible that the leadership styles of Henderson and Whitacre simply didn’t match. And could GM’s recent attempts to offload Opel, Saturn, and Saab (all of which have so far failed) have anything to do with the resignation? We’re not sure yet, but you can bet we’ll be following this one closely and keeping you up-to-date through the blog and the podcast.
In the meantime, check out Ed Whitacre’s statement after the break.
GM Statement Attributed To Chairman Ed Whitacre
At its monthly meeting in Detroit today, the General Motors Board of Directors accepted the resignation of Fritz Henderson as Director, President and CEO of the company.
Fritz has done a remarkable job in leading the company through an unprecedented period of challenge and change. While momentum has been building over the past several months, all involved agree that changes needed to be made. To this end, I have taken over the role of Chairman and CEO while an international search for a new president and CEO begins immediately. With these new duties, I will begin working in the Renaissance Center headquarters on a daily basis. The leadership team – many who are with me today – are united and committed to the task at hand.
I want to assure all of our employees, dealers, suppliers, union partners and most of all, our customers, that GM’s daily business operations will continue as normal. I remain more convinced than ever that our company is on the right path and that we will continue to be a leader in offering the worldwide buying public the highest quality, highest value cars and trucks. We now need to accelerate our progress toward that goal, which will also mean a return to profitability and repaying the American and Canadian tax payers as soon as possible.
In closing, I want to once again thank Fritz Henderson for his years of leadership and service to General Motors; we’re grateful for his many contributions. I look forward to working with the entire GM team as we now begin the next chapter of this great company.
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This was going to happen.
Henderson was not hired as a full time CEO- but rather a chief bean counter to help financially stabilize GM going forward. He’s not much of a “car guy” (and neither is Whiticare), and he couldn’t seem to sell a single brand to a buyer. That’s not good if your company NEEDS to sell some assets. Hummer? Hummer’s CEO Jim Taylor is selling Hummer. Henderson didn’t really seem to understand what was a good product for the company and what isn’t (killing a Zeta sedan to approving a upcoming hatch wearing a GMC badge). Couple that with the unrealistic expectation of turning a profit within months and only seeing green for the only time in 21 straight just a month ago and back down this month… well it seemed the grill was already prepped to throw Fritz on it.
Whiticare and Henderson also butted heads since the beginning, and the straw that broke the camels back could have been when Whiticare called the Opel sale off- a move that was Henderson’s idea. The two would also seem to make conflicting statements about the company’s future constantly. It wasn’t Obama’s doing for this- the Board of Directors just felt a change was needed. However, simply shuffling the deck doesn’t seem good enough.
I am suggesting b4hand, dont get another “finance guy”(or gal) to lead the NEW GM. Make sure you select a new talent with marketing & sales background. I honestly propose Susan Docherty… Let the “women ruling the world” keep rolling; BUT Bob Lutz must stay!
Seriously, my candidate for the new CEO, Ms. Docherty makes a lot of sense. Come to think of it, she’s got good relations with the dealer network, she is good in leading/managing sales, just got promoted, and she is and has been working darn hard to put things back in track. The Auto Task Force, Ed Whitacre and Ray Young are all looking well after the financial issues with no doubt… There is simply a need for a sales person at the top. Finance guys used up their rights to serve now; GM has been appointing CEO’s direct from its finance dept. since decades… If talking about change this pattern HAS TO CHANGE. Susan get ready please! /MT
@Manny – I agree – for the most part. But I’m not sure that the failure to sell/divest of Pontiac, Saturn, and Saab was Fritz’ fault. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t even involved in much of the Saturn and Saab negotiations. They usually bring in “negotiation/divestiture professionals” to deal with these kinds of things.
@Mel and Manny:
Fritz is a finance guy – but personally I don’t know whether or not he understood cars and what makes or brakes a product. That said, being involved in finance doesn’t automatically preclude one from being a “car guy.” Does that make sense?
Putting Susan Docherty in charge is an interesting idea. The only problem with sales-oriented leader is that products may suffer. In other words, if Fritz wasn’t a “car guy,” what makes us think that Docherty is a “car gal?”
My personal recommendation is to have someone with a marketing (not advertising – marketing – these get confused a lot 🙂 ) background lead the company. Marketing is where any new product should begin: what’s the target market, demographic, etc? Only after such factors have been determined can a vehicle be green-lit.
I’m afraid that someone with sales will make the mistake of approving something like the Pontiac G5 and G3 and then giving the Astra to Saturn – all stupid moves. Also, a sales-oriented leader will have a much stronger emphasis on dealers – which isn’t what GM needs right now. They need an emphasis on making excellent product. If the product is there, the dealers will have it easy – the product will sell itself.
Maximum Bob is the Vice Chairman of Marketing… but he’s also the guy who wanted the SSR! But he did also push for big winners like the G8 and CTS-V. He’s got the balls to say what he wants too. Would you want to see MB at the helm over Whiticre? I think I would… and the “car guy” pedigree just means someone who is either a former engineer, or very passionate or both. Big Ed has yet to show me that he’s at least passionate. And did you catch that video? Man, for a guy that butted heads with Fritz so much he surely had a lot of nice things to say (off his script!).
But Susan Docherty… I’m with you and it’s – yeah right. She couldn’t steer Pontiac in the appropriate direction before she became the sales VP (and honestly, anybody could do a better job than what Mark LeNave did). How did she figure the launch of cars the G3, G5 and Torrent and Astra as a Saturn were good calls? I could go on about this but, you get my stand on it. She shouldn’t even be in GM.
And just reading on AutoBlog… Saab has (coincidentally) a new potential buyer in Spyker. Maybe Fritz was somewhat involved in the defunct sales after all.
@Manny – Agreed. My major point of contention about the “car guy” thing is that I don’t think anyone REALLY knew whether Fritz was one. Maybe his immediate family knew, but that’s it outside of that.
You can probably imagine the personal tension that Fritz is/was going though regarding this whole brouhaha and I don’t want to write on here the seemingly unfounded material that’s currently circulating on forums, etc. If we’re talking first impressions, he didn’t SEEM like a car guy. But – like I said – no one really knows.
Otherwise you’re spot on. 🙂
PS: I did some digging and have realized more or less why the G8 wasn’t rebadged as a Chevy. Look for that soon as well.