Sunday, March 29, 2009

Duke BOT Vice Chair Wagoner Out As GM CEO

The AP reports - - -

General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner will step down immediately at the request of the White House, administration officials said Sunday.

The news comes as President Obama prepares to unveil additional restructuring efforts designed to save the domestic auto industry.

The officials asked not to be identified because details of the restructuring plan have not yet been made public. On Monday, Obama is to announce plans to restructure GM and Chrysler LLC in exchange for additional government loans. The companies have been living on $17.4 billion in government aid and have requested $21.6 billion more.

Wagoner's departure indicates that more management changes may be part of the deal.

Wagoner, 56, has repeatedly said he felt it was better for the company if he led it through the crisis, but he has faced sharp criticism on Capitol Hill for what many lawmakers regard as years of missteps, mistakes and arrogance by the Big Three automakers.

Wagoner joined GM in 1977, serving in several capacities in the U.S., Brazil and Europe. He became president and chief executive in 2000 and has served as chairman and CEO since May 2003.

The rest of the AP’s story’s here.

Nathan Bomey at Michigan Business Review comments:

The exodus of Rick Wagoner from General Motors marks a momentous moment for the automaker's most emphatic critics - many of whom have called for his resignation for years.

But it won't necessarily save the company. Ultimately, GM's survival is more dependent on the ability of the company's negotiators to land meaningful concessions from the UAW and GM bondholders - or the company's ability to navigate government-backed bankruptcy restructuring….

Wagoner's departure will surely invite a multitude of assumptions and accusations about his motives. Is Wagoner the notorious ship captain who rows away while the boat is sinking?

Not my call. In his defense, perhaps he believes someone else is better suited to steer GM through this crisis.

But let's be honest. Even if GM survives - which seems likely, even if bankruptcy is involved - Wagoner's legacy will be defined by GM's fall from grace.

The company - once the world leader in vehicle production - failed to embrace alternative propulsion vehicles as Japanese rivals Toyota and Honda established themselves as the leaders in that critical segment. …

Wagoner, ultimately, was not the executive to steer GM through the end of this crisis. ...

Bomey’s entire commentary’s here.

Wagoner currently serves as one of two vice chairs (Dan Blue's the other) of Duke University’s board of trustees. See here for a list of Duke’s current trustees. Click of Wagoner’s name for a profile dated Oct. 2008.

Wagoner is one of
Duke’s most powerful trustees.

He serves on the trustee executive committee which acts on the BOT’s behalf between its 4 meetings per year.

Wagoner is very close to current BOT chair Robert Steel.

In 2003 Steel, then a BOT vice chair, headed the search committee that recommended then Yale dean Richard Brodhead for the Duke presidency. Wagoner was a member of the search committee.

Steel is often cited as the chief architect of Duke’s disgraceful “throw the students under the bus” response to the lies of false accuser Crystal Mangum and the now disbarred Mike Nifong.

Wagoner’s role in shaping Duke’s response to those lies and the howls of the Raleigh N&O and some Duke faculty has received less attention.

However, it’s hard to believe he was anything but hip-and-thigh with his friend Steel in deciding on Duke's actions and inactions which have stained the university's reputation and embroiled it in numerous lawsuits, with more very likely still to come.

Yet there’s been much talk in the Duke community this past year of Wagoner succeeding Steel when Steel’s term as chair expires at the end of June.

Today’s resignation will surely dampen that talk and, I hope, preclude Wagoner’s moving up to BOT chair.

Final note for those who appreciate irony: While searching The Chronicle archives for this post the earliest mention of Wagoner I found was in a Nov. 1994 story headed:

GM executive talks to Fuqua about company turnaround
Hat tip: Someone who stands up for Duke.


Anonymous said...

While I think that Wagoner needed to go as GM's CEO, am I the only one that is concerned taht we have the president of the US effectively firing the head of a company? What company is next on Obama's radar?

JWM said...

Dear cks,

Re: What company is next on President Obama's radar?

I hope it's neither Fed Ex or UPS.

Imagine an America in which the federal government gets those two companies operating like it operates the Post Office.

Is there a company in America that's set up to throw scoundrels like Sens. Reid and Dodd, Speaker Pelosi and Reps. Rangel and Frank out of office?

I'd be willing to see some bailout money go to that company.

I bet you would, too.

On your NEH trip: I plan to use your program dates, some time before and after and a bit of what you said about your "who, what and when" for a "starter" post I hope will grow to 4 or 5 posts about things to do in the UK and The Neth. this summer.



Anonymous said...

A company that has as its mission to clean the scoundrels out of teh COngress would prbably be able to sell its shares for $300.00 a share (if not more) if the company were able to deliver on its promise.
I would hope that Fed Ex and UPS stay out of the government's reach though at this point, one has to wonder if any company istruly beyond what seems to be the United Socialists of America's reach.

Thank you so much for providing the forum for JinC contributors to provide suggestions for a travel itinerary.