Gm's Henderson Quits

Ceo's Departure Means More Turmoil At Nation's Largest Automaker

December 02, 2009|By Ken Bensinger | Ken Bensinger , Tribune Newspapers

General Motors Co. chief executive Fritz Henderson stepped down Tuesday, signaling continued turmoil over turnaround efforts at the troubled automaker.

Board chairman Edward Whitacre Jr. will temporarily take over the CEO spot until a permanent replacement is found, GM said.

"We all agreed more changes were needed," Whitacre said to reporters in a news conference in Detroit.

Henderson, a longtime GM veteran, was named to the top executive job in March, after the removal of his predecessor, Rick Wagoner, at the hands of the Obama administration. Soon thereafter, Henderson took GM into bankruptcy and since then has overseen its emergence and push to reduce costs, work force and vehicle brands.

Whitacre thanked Henderson for his work but said it was time to accelerate the pace of rebuilding the largest U.S. automaker.

An Obama administration official said in a statement that "this decision was made by the Board of Directors alone. The Administration was not involved."

Whitacre, who was named chairman in June, with backing from the White House, has repeatedly voiced support for Henderson. But the past few months have been rocky for the automaker.

In recent weeks, a plan to sell the European division Opel was reversed; GM will keep the operation. Meanwhile, deals to sell the Saab and Saturn brands fell through, and unless buyers are found, those brands will be shuttered by year's end. And a bid to sell Hummer to a Chinese manufacturer has been hobbled by regulatory questions.

GM has continued to lose market share since emerging from bankruptcy, but did announce last month that it intended to begin paying back next month $6.7 billion in loans from the U.S. government.

"We now need to accelerate our progress toward that goal, which will also mean a return to profitability and repaying the American and Canadian taxpayers as soon as possible," Whitacre said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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