While the job may not be popular at all in terms of public opinion, General Motors departing lobbyist Ken Cole has done a pretty good job of making the automaker a sympathetic figure for those inclined to bend rules and bail out poorly-managed behemoths. Sure, GM's stature in the public eye is still down there with big tobacco, but Cole managed to keep the automaker's relationship with governments around the world on a somewhat even keel. No mean feat when you consider how much divestiture underpins the whole of GM's plan forward.

It might even be said that Cole the individual can't be replaced by just one person, and Ed Whitacre seemingly agrees. Two of Whitacre's former AT&T colleagues have been given offices in the company's Detroit Renaissance Center headquarters as replacements for the departing Ken Cole. John Montford has been given a seat beside Whitacre where he will put government affairs under his purview, a role he honed as AT&T's Senior Vice President of state legislative affairs. GM's new Vice President of Government Relations is Bob Ferguson, who was most recently doing public affairs consulting, but he was all over state regulatory affairs at AT&T before that. We may get to see how well these guys can dance come June, when Whitacre has vowed to pay back nearly $7 billion in government loans. Official press release after the jump.

[Source: General Motors]


PRESS RELEASE:
  • John T. Montford named senior advisor for Government Relations and Global Public Policy
  • Robert E. Ferguson joins GM as vice president, Government Relations
  • Ken W. Cole to remain with GM until later in 2010

DETROIT – General Motors has realigned its government relations and public policy team with the appointment of John T. Montford as a senior advisor to GM Chairman and CEO Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., and Robert E. Ferguson, vice president of Government Relations.

Ken W. Cole, currently the vice president of Government Relations and Public Policy who joined GM in 2001, will remain with the company for the next several months as an advisor until his retirement later in 2010. Montford will have overall responsibility for Government Relations and Global Public Policy, and will be supported by Ferguson and Michael J. Robinson, the current vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety Policy. The appointments of Montford and Ferguson are effective January 1, 2010.

"John and Bob are proven professionals who have worked in an environment of intense regulatory and political complexity," said Whitacre. "I've worked with both through a number of issues over the past several years and they have my deep trust and respect. We thank Ken Cole for his years of service at GM and will continue to draw on his expertise over the coming months."

John T. Montford
Montford has a deep and diverse background in public policy and corporate affairs. He was most recently senior vice president-state legislative affairs for AT&T. Previously he served as president of external affairs for Southwestern Bell. Following the merger of SBC and AT&T, he served as president-western region for AT&T. He was also the 2005 chairman of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. He has served as an independent director of Southwest Airlines since 2002.

Prior to joining SBC in 2001, Montford was Texas Tech University's first chancellor, and the chief executive officer of the University system. Before being named chancellor, he served as a member of the Texas Senate for 14 years. During his tenure in the Senate he served as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee. He was elected president pro tem for the 73rd Legislative Session. Texas Monthly named Senator Montford among the Top 10 Best Legislators for five legislative sessions. A graduate of the University of Texas-Austin and UT Law, Montford's professional career began with his service as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Following his tour of active duty, he launched his legal career in Texas and was later elected as district attorney from 1979 to 1982.

Robert E. Ferguson
Ferguson was most recently a senior strategist for the business advisory firm of Public Strategies, Inc. in Austin, Texas. In that role, he provided strategic counsel to corporations and other organizations, with a focus on international business, technology and public policy. Ferguson joined Public Strategies from AT&T, where he was president of state legislative and regulatory affairs. While at AT&T, Ferguson was responsible for overseeing all external and regulatory issues in the 50 states and for managing the company's public policy organization. He assumed that position in 2005, when SBC Communications and AT&T merged.

Earlier positions with SBC included serving as group president and CEO of Enterprise Business Services. Ferguson was responsible for sales and customer care for SBC's enterprise and federal government accounts and the corporation's long distance, Internet and data communication companies. Prior positions at SBC included president of Business Communications Services for its western U.S. operations, president of SBC federal relations in Washington, D.C., regional president for Southern California, and managing director for regulatory policy. Before joining SBC Communications in 1996, Ferguson was a senior vice president, partner and general manager at Fleishman-Hillard Inc., serving as the senior consultant to SBC companies on all communications issues.