GM finance chief named to Lopez job Wagoner, 40, to have vast authority

April 06, 1993|By New York Times News Service

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. appointed its chief financial officer yesterday to take over the duties of Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, the aggressive head of worldwide purchasing who resigned last month to join Volkswagen A.G.

After a meeting of GM directors in New York, the automaker said that G. Richard Wagoner, who is also executive vice president, would expand his responsibilities to include those that had been Mr. Lopez's.

Leon J. Krain, vice president and group executive of the automaker's finance staff, will take over many daily operations that had been handled by Mr. Wagoner, GM said.

At 40, Mr. Wagoner is young, by GM standards, to be an executive vice president. With his new duties, his authority will be vast.

In a statement, John F. Smith Jr., GM's president and chief

executive, called Mr. Wagoner "an enthusiastic yet disciplined leader who knows the importance our partners place on common enterprise and long-term relationships."

But Mr. Wagoner will have a tremendous void to fill. The most important question will be whether he can carry on the momentum in cost savings that Mr. Lopez was able to achieve in a short time.

In less than a year of negotiating with GM's North American suppliers, Mr. Lopez lopped enormous costs from GM in North America, as he did in Europe before coming to the Detroit headquarters.

Clearly, analysts say, Mr. Lopez's ability to get results and inspire fellow executives to his style of energetic management prompted Ferdinand Piech, VW's chairman, to lure him from GM.

Mr. Wagoner is unlikely to emulate Mr. Lopez's emotional approach to leadership, which included hugging confederates and asking them to move their watches to their right arms as a reminder that GM was not making money.

Because GM's announcement came late in the day, many analysts were not immediately available to evaluate how Mr. Wagoner's appointment would affect GM. The company's shares rose 50 cents each, to $37.75, on the New York Stock Exchange.

Mr. Lopez's defection to Volkswagen last month has continued to make waves on both sides of the Atlantic. On Friday, GM's Adam Opel subsidiary won a temporary injunction preventing Volkswagen and Mr. Lopez from recruiting GM executives and managers.

Mr. Wagoner is a graduate of Duke University and the Harvard Business School.

After serving in Europe as vice president of finance under Mr. RTC Smith, Mr. Wagoner was sent to Latin America in 1991 as president of GM's Brazilian subsidiary.

After Robert C. Stempel's resignation in November 1992, which resulted in Mr. Smith's elevation to president and chief executive, Mr. Wagoner was brought back as chief financial officer and executive vice president.

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