Who is Ed Whitacre?

June 11, 2009 at 9:03 pm

taking over the business, home or car. selling or buying.Earlier this week GM announced the appointment of their soon to be new Chairman Edward Whitacre. Whitacre will assume the top post at the new GM upon its exit from bankruptcy perhaps by the summer’s end (it is hoped).

 So who is Whitacre and why was he selected for this most visible ,exposed and illustrious position? And importantly, was he the best choice for the massive task at hand?

 All these questions and more are being postulated in the media and out in the blogosphere. Clearly the attention this appointment is getting bespeaks of the importance of this role not only for GM, but perhaps for the American people as a whole.

 Ed Whitacre retired as Chairman of AT&T in 2007. He spent 44 years at the company and its predecessors. He is known for having built AT&T into the behemoth it was when he stepped down from his role (some say earlier than expected for unknown reasons). He is considered a master deal maker with a (and I quote) “bulldozing style and attention to detail. “

 I think that while Whitacre definitely has a track record of success managing a large complex company that  is about where his applicability to the new role ends.

 Yes, as Chairman he will not be involved in the day to day operations of GM. But as Chairman he must be able to strategically lead this giant to success. In order to do this common sense dictates an understanding of the automobile industry. Not only is Whitacre limited in this area but he has actually come out in the press and said that he knows nothing about cars. I don’t think GM has the luxury of time so that the person at the helm can educate themselves.

 Additionally, Whitacre has never run a manufacturing company (unlike the other outsider he is compared to, Alan Mulally who spent his entire career at Boeing).

 Whitacre is also candid about his lack of computer savvy. Surely an understanding of computers and the Internet is a most basic qualification for any leader these days.  In case anyone has any doubt the “world wide web” is here to stay!

 So while I have reservations about the choice of Whitacre as Chairman of GM I am hopeful that he and the other decision makers have the wherewithal to elect a highly qualified board that will be sufficiently complimentary.

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MinnPost – Target board battle: What’s it mean for the rest of us? Ed Whitacre: Part 2


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