• Jun 10, 2009
Newly tapped General Motors Chairman Edward E. Whitacre, Jr. may have built AT&T into a telecommunications powerhouse, but it's fair to question whether he can help do the same for GM. You see, he isn't particularly savvy on the whole auto business thing. In his own words: "I don't know anything about cars." While he admits that cars are a new consideration for him, Whitacre doesn't see it as a much of a problem: "A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I'm not that old, and I think the business principles are the same."
The 67-year-old Whitacre has until Aug. 31 – the date GM is set to exit Chapter 11 – to bone up. Maybe we shouldn't be too critical. After all, former GM engineer and current 2953 Analytics principal, Jim Hall, thinks Whitacre is "a good choice" based on his experience and in the similarities he sees between AT&T and GM:
"He was one of the guys who helped create a new AT&T that wasn't so dependent on land-line phone service. There's a parallel with General Motors. GM is not now about just making cars. It's about re-creating itself as a 21st-century car company. They have to have somebody at the top that understands they have to make a new GM."
Whitacre says he was enticed out of retirement by the Treasury Department and Steven Rattner, President Barack Obama's auto task force dealmaker. He added that the Treasury basically told him, "We need your help. It's a great company. You could be a lot of assistance to GM." Big Ed says that he is helping GM out of bankruptcy as "a public service." We hope he is a quick study.

[Source: Bloomberg | Image: Mark Wilson/Getty]


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  • 44 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Don't need to either, a chairman needs to know how to make smart business and that's all.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Apparently no one at GM has known about cars for the past 20 or so years so it makes no difference. Furthermore, considering the taxpayers are funding GM operations via socialist obama there is even less reason to care...
        It;s too bad the uaw has survived through this...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mullaly knew something about the manufacture of very expensive durable goods with multiple regulatory and customer driven requirements.

        Cell phones are a bit removed from that.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Anything would be better than Lutz or any supposed car-guy.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That's funny Mr. Chairman because nor does GM.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Or the current administration in Washington D.C.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Apparently not all of the "rank in file" GM haters are aware of his appointment, otherwise there would be 100's of adverse comments. Real question is "who is the great BO's team? What do they know?" Anyone. Thanks
      • 5 Years Ago
      Exactly where is ATT on a world scale as far as technology goes? Did they ever have the lead in communications world wide? Do we need to keep going back to the old proprietary business strategies (that we all hate) to emerge from this god awful mess we got ourselves into? Someone at GM has to start asking the right questions and real soon.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Guess he was on the correct political donors list.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "The guy is a very successful businessman... what makes you assume foul play?"

        Have you been paying attention to the current administration at all lately?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually, he endorsed McCain. What's your story now?
        • 5 Years Ago
        The guy is a very successful businessman... what makes you assume foul play?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Worth checking into!
      • 5 Years Ago
      How hard can it be? Try, fail, get a bailout. Try, fail, get a bailout. Try, fail, get a bailout.Seems pretty easy. If you get really lucky, GM makes money. If he fails, can I be next? Plllllleeeease?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Learn to take a joke.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hey, Saxxon, ask one of the 46 million Americans who don't have any health insurance whether they would rather have to wait for surgery under universal health care, or not get it at all under the current system. By the way, the number of Americans with *no* insurance dwarfs the population of Canada (pop. 33 million) and is equal to 3/4 of the entire British population (pop 60 million).

        Why, in fact, you can ask my brother-in-law, who recently graduated from college, but has not been able to find a job, and has been living with the pain of a hernia for months now, but can't do anything about it since he can't afford the treatment.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Hey, Mr. Oak, ask someone from England and Canada who have had to wait for important, life-saving surgery, but weren't deemed a priority by their govt. and see what they think of nationalized health care.

        Oh, and as far as loosing the trade war, look at our standing deficit with China.
        The war is lost already, and for the foreseeable future, Obama has made sure of that.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I lol'd at the headline
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh come on- it's a new era in America. You don't have to know what you're doing to be in charge.
      • 5 Years Ago
      All Whitacre did was help to bring AT&T back to a giant monopolistic corporation that is terrible for consumers but great for shareholders.

      I love the whole GM is not now about just making cars thing. Uh yeah it is. You can't have a car company unless you make good cars. Wasn't that the problem?

      That is what in bringing down GE and what is bringing down Sony. Focus on other business while neglecting your core market. Maybe GM would have been much better off without creating a giant finance arm withits hands in everything and just focusing on making cars.

      The biggest problem with business today is that most corporations are run by people that know nothing about the actual business of creating and selling a product but only about how to hype stock and manipulate earnings for shareholders. I guarantee Whitacre would fail at running any private business that actually had to create a product to sell in a fair and open market to stay in business.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Terrible for consumers huh?

        So apparently those Zack Morris style cell phones of the '80s at $1 per minute, dial up internet via AOL, 8 channels of cable TV service, betamax DVRs, giant plastic landline phones, and the Apple Newton were good for consumers.

        You don't have any idea what you are talking about.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's not about cars, it about Re:Invention. Whitacre is all over that - he re:invented AT&T back into a monopoly.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Long time coming. GM needed an outsider's POV way sooner. Either that, or actually listen to the people on the outside, ie. the buying public.
      • 5 Years Ago
      As long as he doesn't kill the Camaro and the Corvette, it's all good.
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