NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Motors Chief Executive Frederick “Fritz” Henderson stepped down at the request of the company’s board of directors on Tuesday and will be replaced by current Chairman Ed Whitacre.
The following are comments from analysts and other market sources on the change at the top at the largest U.S. automaker.
Webcast of press conference:
STEPHEN MASSOCCA, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF WEDBUSH MORGAN, SAN
“If there’s a story anywhere more broadly, I think it’s going to be difficult to get market compensation at these government-run companies, you’re going to be living in a fish bowl and you’re going to get hauled in front of Congress whenever to get a paddling.
“People who have options in life are going to look at that and say, ‘why am I going to do this?’ You start looking at companies like AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, ultimately you’re not going to have talented people working or running these companies because there are going to be better opportunities elsewhere.
“I have no idea if that’s the motivation for Fritz Henderson to resign or if he was pushed out because of not being able to sell the piece of dung that Saab is. I don’t know, but if there’s any kind of a broad story, that would be it.”
ERICH MERKLE, ANALYST, AUTOCONOMY in GRAND RAPIDS,
“I honestly didn’t think that he would, long-term, be the guy at General Motors.
“I think Fritz’s knowledge of General Motors and his history at General Motors probably provided a tremendous amount of value as they went through the bankruptcy and restructuring process, but going forward it was likely that he was not the guy to lead General Motors into the future.
“Ed Whitacre comes from outside automotive and there were a number of people, with the success that Alan Mulally has had with Ford, that thought maybe that is the route to go, that we have to breathe new life into the auto industry.
“You still have to have the right person in place. There are still a lot of changes that need to be made in terms of strategically and directionally at General Motors.
“There wasn’t anyone better than Fritz Henderson to lead them through this bankruptcy process. You certainly don’t want to have someone fresh in there trying to lead ... you need the history there that Fritz Henderson had.
“Going forward I think it requires a different skill set quite frankly than Henderson possesses.”
DAVID BITTERMAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, HURON CONSULTING
“At the end of the day it seems a little bit inevitable.
“Obviously, Whitacre and Fritz didn’t envision the new GM the same way. Fritz basically was going to sell Opel to Magna and then changed plans and Whitacre questioned that. In no particular order the first shoe to drop for Fritz was the collapse of sale of Saturn to Penske. That was straw No. 1.
“Straw No. 2 was the disagreement on the strategy in Europe in relation to Opel. Straw No. 3 was collapse of sale of Saab.
“I know Fritz but haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Whitacre but he seems to be a hard-charging guy. The tumult of the last six months you tend to change things pretty dramatically. So I don’t think it’s disparaging of Fritz. But I read the news and I said ‘It’s inevitable’.
“GM has great brands and a great footprint in North America. Bankruptcy afforded them new life. They have a strong liquidity position after bankruptcy. I think they will make a good go of it here but they want to make substantive changes.
Reporting by Ellis Mnyandu in New York; David Bailey in Detroit; and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware
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