General Motors just announced that Edward Whitacre, Jr. will be the company’s new Chairman upon the launch of a revised GM company this summer. Kent Kresa has been serving as interim Chairman.
Six board members will be “retiring”. Whitacre will join current interim Chairman Kent Kresa, Philip A. Laskawy, Kathryn V. Marinello, Erroll B. Davis, Jr., E. Neville Isdell and President and Chief Executive Officer Frederick A. Henderson as the core of the board.
At first glance, it might seem like GM is following Ford’s lead by going outside the inbred automotive manufacturing community for its grand poobah. The 67-year-old Whitacre served as CEO of AT&T and Southwestern Bell from 1990 to 2007, which at first glance brings up comparisons to Ford’s selection of former Boeing executive Alan Mullally to be CEO of its company. The primary difference here is that Mullally had significant organizational and line operations experience when he was hired to be the hands-on leader. Whitacre’s experience is mostly in turning entrenched, old-school technology companies into larger companies by purchasing new technology companies. Plus, Whitacre’s position as Chairman is more of an advisory role.
Whitacre also serves on the boards of ExxonMobil and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which leads one to ask: is it possible to find a guy who has been involved in more old technology / old white-men’s culture companies which have seen their market share shrink due to ignoring shifts?
In other words, it seems GM went out of the auto sector to find a Chairman who is most like a brother from another mother.
This being said, we wish Whitacre luck in his role and hope he surprises the world by working with Fritz Henderson to successfully reinvent GM.