• Dec 27, 2009
Chris Liddell, the Microsoft CFO who'll be leaving to to take the same position at GM next month, might not stop there. Observers have suggested that Liddell wants the chance to run his own company, and say they can't imagine a star at Microsoft would take a post at an "eroded pillar of an old economy" without the chance to move up to CEO.
The idea of (another) finance guy in the top spot at GM could give auto enthusiasts pause. Liddell does have experience as a chief executive, however, having held the position at two New Zealand firms: Carter Holt Harvey, and CS First Boston NZ. Still, the bulk of his experience is in finance, and his Microsoft tenure is regarded mostly for helping the company save cash and overseeing job cuts.

Those are two skills GM clearly needs right now, and we hope Liddell will do well in the CFO position. But if he's being groomed for the top position, we wonder how his skills will translate to developing vehicles. True, Ford's Alan Mulally was an outsider who hadn't ever developed a car, either, but he did have decades of experience in development, having assisted or overseen the progress of at least seven different Boeing planes.

No need to get ahead of ourselves, though -- Liddell has plenty of work to complete as CFO first, his $750,000-plus pay package won't deliver until 2012, and only then if he delivers. GM is still searching for a CEO to take the reins back from Ed Whitacre. That will give the 51-year-old Liddell time to study and learn the craft of running an auto company... and figure out how to bring back the Pontiac G8 GXP. Seriously, we don't care which brand does it...

[Source: CNBC]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 25 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Has the guy even officially started his job as CFO yet?!?

      I wouldn't even call this a "rumor" - it's down-right speculation.

      Give the guy a chance as a CFO and see what happens from there. While my gut feeling is that a CEO of a car company should also be a "car guy", who's to say that Liddell just happened to get into finance as a career, but knows more about cars than Jay Leno and can race them around the track faster than The Stig?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Two words for this - Roger Smith. He was the one who decided that everything should be "cost effective" during the 80's and early 90's. Look where that helped to get GM.
        • 5 Years Ago
        however, for GM to able to make any cars at all, they need to be financially viable. Before the bankruptcy GM was building some of its best cars in years but it was so far in debt and burning through its liquid assets so quickly that cars like the Pontiac G8 were lost in the aftermath. I can understand that people will call Mr. Liddell the second Roger Smith, but without a financially sound GM, there will be no GM.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Roger Smith was an a**. He sent all the jobs out of USA.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Actually GM's debt burden existed long before they started making good product. In fact it was accounting slight of hand from past decades that was forced into the light by Enron legislation that destroyed their ability to generate emergency capital. And Roger had his fair share of contribution to those obligations.

        GM's screw up period where they made the decisions that screwed them the most was under Roger mostly.

        During the late 70's and early 80's they were hammered with product regulations essentially designed around saying build what Japan was building. So no surprise Japanese makers could easily walk onto the scene. Faced with that and a bad economy the US makers compromised quality to meet those regulations and a bad economy.

        But in the mid-80's instead of recovering from that period, they tried to make wallstreet happy. They concentrated on making a profit offing non-profitable lines. During this time the marketshare gains of the Japanese came almost entirely out of GM's share. And with GM's marketshare reduced, fixed costs/car go up. Its part of the competitive disadvantage they had (and still have to some degree).

        So instead of recovering their reputation for quality and design, from the rush to comply in the late 70's early 80's, they extended their negative image into the early 90's. Only starting to comeback with quality in the mid-90's and design in the past half-decade or so. And that was from appeasing wallstreet and satisfying watch words like RONA, etc. If they had started acting in the mid-80's like they did in the mid-90's, they wouldn't be in crisis like they are now.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Before people start complaining: you do NOT have to be a 'car guy' to
      run a 'car company'. Do you think that the CEO of P&G is necessarily a "cleaning products and Pringles guy"? You need to have a great mind for
      business to run a car company, just like anything else. Product is
      product is product and a CEO needs to know how to get that product
      sold (whilst keeping the company healthy), no matter what.

      Case-in-point: i'm a car guy, and if I was CEO of GM, all that we
      would sell would be things that can lap the 'Ring in less than 9
      minutes. And i'd probably drive GM into bankruptcy... again.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's not his background that's the problem. It's the inbreeding that's the problem. It's the same crap over and over. It's like Fidel Castro appointing his brother Raul Castro as the next "CEO". If they really want to change the company, be serious and get some new blood into the company.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Balance is key.

        Too many "car guys" = A full lineup consisting of all G8's, CTS-V's, Camaros, and Vettes.

        Too many "bean counters" = All econoboxes with no personality, no sales, and NO QUALITY
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Mohawk58

        Your comments show exactly why the average gearhead doesn't understand business. The price of an object has nothing to do weather it's a commodity. Gold is a commodity at $1000 an ounce. A commodity is a product where it's difficult to differentiate the product. I would agree that cars are not a commodity but I would also say that shampoo is not a commodity. If it where P&G wouldn't be spending all that money in advertising and branding. Also name brand shampoo wouldn't sell at almost double the price of a comparable generic.

        The goal of finance is simply to provide funding, not necessarily to make business decisions on the appropriate level of quality. I can tell you that I've worked in finance at an automotive company for a few years and I've been asked to make any decisions in relation to proving and cost cutting quality. What we're asked to do is to validate the information coming from engineering and determine whether not a proposed project/feature/change will deliver the cost cutting or revenue generating opportunities being claimed. By your logic no finance person would ever invest in a luxury brand company yet they're often quite profitable. A "bean counter" has no problem with spending money to deliver quality to turn a profit. It's very reason we got into this line of work in the first place.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I should probably clarify my statement to Mr. Mohawk.

        A smart, successful CEO should know how to make his company succeed, regardless of if the product costs the consumer ten dollars or ten thousand dollars. The 'bean counters' you speak of were never good businessmen and drove GM into the ground by producing crap products, resulting in its eventual bankruptcy.

        If GM gets a CEO who understands how to make GM healthy again, i'm all for it. He or she doesn't need to know the innate ins-and-outs of how automobiles are made. All that the CEO needs to do is surround him/herself with people who DO know how automobiles are made, and how to manage those people effectively to make a great product that people will want to buy.

        Alan Mullaly's background is in aerospace. He's an 'airplane guy', I suppose. Yet he is doing a fine job at Ford.
        • 5 Years Ago
        That is singularly the dumbest statement ever posted here. You have no clue about GMs history. The problem with GM at its core has been the lack of "car-guys" at the helm.

        P&G sells items for less than $10. GM for no less than $10,000. Cars are not commodities like shampoo. In fact, the influx of Harvard educated P&G "wunderkinds" at GM created brand engineered monstrosities like the Aztek, Pontiac 9000, Alero/Grand Am and on and on...

        The ONLY reason GM has turned any corner is because they have purged 2% of the "group-Thinkers" that run rampantly under guys like Smith. No GM NEEDS car guys with passion. Bean counters have majorly F*KKed that company by running it like a bank instead of a company that makes cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Must disagree old man! I looked at GM's history and IMHO I see that a major part of their problems were caused by not funding R & D to the extent it should have been supported because they followed the common American greed model, i.e., an ever increasing PR budget with the theme of duping people into driving ineffecient heavy automobiles, a run-away cost of rewarding the board members who agree with the CEO, and a manufacturing line item favoring building old obsoleted, non-innovative designs.

        I like the idea of replacing the CEO with someone who understands engineering, production and sales. I like the way FORD reacted to the present crisis...by hiring an CEO with these very experiences, Alan Mulally from Boeing. He has accepted a pay cut of 37%, re-engineered the whole company's car line for efficiency and cut the manufacturing costs to match Ford's lower production output.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Car guy or not, I hope this doesn't mean GM will get Microsoft's Sync, or that it will somehow bastardize OnStar with Sync.
      • 5 Years Ago
      These people need to stop shuffling and start dealing... how can GM be so headless? You'd think there would be a line of people waiting to replace the CEO based on their merits at the company. This is the type of stuff that makes you see why GM collapsed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      NO_NO_NO more finance guys running GM.
      • 5 Years Ago
      He's going to get experience with negative numbers for his resume.

      Oh and how many retailers did Microsoft drop to become more profitable?
      • 5 Years Ago
      So this is only speculation I guess.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Where do they find these pictures? And tell him to STOP LOOKING AT ME!
      • 5 Years Ago
      What does he drive now? That'll tell us everything we need to know about him.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Very intuitive. My bet is that the Toyota/Honda/(insert high end Japanese geekmobile here) gets traded for a VERY VISIBLE Caddy CTS-V rather abruptly. Poser.
      • 5 Years Ago
      no offence, used car salesman
      • 5 Years Ago
      He will do allright if he can overcome the stagnant, stinking culture that prevades GM. To help him do that, he should keep Alan Mulally's phone number on his speed-dial list. Now GM needs a car guy to replace that old f*rt Lutz the Nutz and take over product developement. Best of luck to you Chris!
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