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Phone boss to chair new GM

Connected: Edward Whitacre Jr has been given the job of guiding GM out of the financial wilderness.

The man who rebuilt US phone giant AT&T is tapped to head the 'New GM'

General Motors logo10 Jun 2009

By IAN PORTER

THE US treasury department has approved the selection of retired phone company boss Edward Whitacre Jr to chair the board of directors of ‘New GM’ when it emerges from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Mr Whitacre, 67, will take over from interim chairman Kent Kresa, 71 – a former chief executive of Northrop Grumman – who will continue as a director of the new company.

GM says six other members of the current board will most likely retire, and it is seeking four replacements.

The appointment of a separate chairman in contrast with the usual US practice of combining the chairman and chief executive roles, signals that the US government wants the board to retain its independence and not be dominated by management.

Mr Whitacre retired two years ago after a 44-year career with AT&T. His 17 years as chief executive was highlighted by a string of acquisitions which culminated in the 2006 $US86 billion ($A107 billion) takeover of BellSouth Corporation.

Mr Whitacre’s appointment was announced in a statement by Mr Kresa, who said it marked an auspicious beginning for New GM.

“We look forward to working with him to complete the reinvention of GM and maximise the enormous potential of this new enterprise.” Richard Perez, who worked closely with Mr Whitacre when both men were serving on the San Antonio city council in Texas, told Reuters he was “tickled” that Mr Whitacre had been given the job.

“He has a vision for bringing things together and making them work, and growing them, and that’s what GM needs right now,” Mr Perez said.

“It was floating too long on the sea of not knowing what the hell they were doing. I think he is going to refocus the mission of the organisation and turn it back into its glory days.” Mr Whitacre is still on the boards of Exxon Mobil Corporation and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation.

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