General Motors: Ed Whitacre
No. 10 Ed Whitacre (CEO): General Motors
No one person, including Whitacre, could save or end GM. The change at the helm is more an omen of GM’s leadership crisis following its recovery from bankruptcy. Steven Rattner (appointed to head the Auto Industry Task Force and “clean house”) selected Whitacre (former AT&T CEO) to signal an auspicious new beginning for GM. However, short-lived executive tenures stall inertia and erode much-needed stability. At the same time, does this call into question other choices that Rattner (who never worked in the auto industry) may have executed without long-term considerations? Remember, Rattner plays the private equity game. He does turnarounds to win the short sprint, and is not a long distance runner. Whitacre, CEO for only 9 months, stepped down in September and resigned as chairman at year’s end. The timing of his announcement came as a surprise, as it coincided with GM’s $23.1 billion IPO.13 With so much change at the top, few exist to take the reins of a company in transition. Whitacre’s successor, Dan Akerson, has been on GM’s board for just over a year. Though no one person carries a company, GM cannot afford missteps right now.