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GM shakes up leadership

Thursday, July 16, 2009

GM shakes up leadership

Several managers to leave, retire as exec ranks shrink

Robert Snell / The Detroit News

The management shakeup at General Motors Co. continued Wednesday with several key executives — including the company’s vice president of research and development and its lawyer — announcing retirements or departures now that the automaker has emerged from bankruptcy court.

Also Wednesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber set a hearing for July 22 after the automaker asked for additional time to file a complete list of assets and liabilities in the bankruptcy case. GM, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on June 1, already was granted an extension until July 31 but has asked for an additional 60 days.

The volume of paperwork and demands on employees to stabilize GM’s operations necessitate an extension, GM lawyer Stephen Karotkin wrote in a court filing.

The management changes announced Wednesday include:

• Larry Burns, vice president of Research & Development and Strategic Planning, will retire Oct. 1 after 40 years with GM and be replaced by Alan Taub, executive director of research and development. Taub oversees GM’s science laboratories in the U.S., Germany, China, India and Israel.

Burns was instrumental in developing vehicles that rely on alternative sources of power, such as electricity and fuel cells. In April, GM announced it was building a prototype two-seat electric vehicle with Segway Inc. that relies on small lithium-ion batteries.

• Robert S. Osborne, group vice president and general counsel, is leaving and will be replaced by Michael Millikin, GM’s associate general counsel, on July 20. Osborne, who helped engineer the automaker’s asset sale in bankruptcy court, is returning to private practice.

• Chris Preuss, who has been vice president of global product communications and GM’s European public relations department, is replacing Vice President of Global Communications Steve Harris on Oct. 1. Harris is retiring.

GM also announced the integration of global research and development into global production development. The moves help fulfill President and CEO Fritz Henderson’s promise to prune the company’s top executive ranks by 35 percent and its overall work force by another 4,000 positions.

"These GM leaders not only guided the company through a financial crisis and the successful creation of a new GM, but they put the elements in place that will be critical for the new GM to succeed in the future," Henderson said in a statement.

Henderson is trying to speed up the company’s response times and decision-making by eliminating the position of North American president and other top jobs.

GM also is replacing its automotive strategy and product boards with a single, eight-member executive committee that will meet weekly.

Changes announced last week include ending GM’s regional operating structure. This eliminates the regional president positions and the regional strategy boards. Nick Reilly will be appointed executive vice president of GM International Operations, which will be based in Shanghai.

Last month, purchasing chief Bo Andersson resigned before taking a job with Russia’s second largest automaker, GAZ. The move came a month after Cadillac chief Mark McNabb resigned and was named president and CEO of Maserati North America Inc., part of Italy’s Fiat Group.

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