GM Says CFO Liddell to Step Down; Ammann to Take Over Post

General Motors Vice Chairman and CFO Chris Liddell
General Motors Vice Chairman and CFO Chris Liddell told reporters that he has accomplished all he wanted at GM and as a CFO. Source: GM

General Motors Co. Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell will leave the company after 15 months on the job, following the departures of two other top executives in the past two weeks.

Treasurer Dan Ammann, 38, will succeed Liddell as CFO effective April 1, Detroit-based GM said today in a statement. Liddell, 52, joined GM as CFO and vice chairman on Jan. 1, 2010, after leaving Microsoft Corp., where he had been finance chief.

GM has had three chief executive officers and two chief financial officers since emerging from a government-backed bankruptcy in July 2009. Liddell’s exit follows the departures of powertrain Vice President Jamie Hresko last week and GM do Brazil President Denise Johnson on Feb. 22.

“They had management problems that caused the company to go into bankruptcy, and they still do,” Maryann Keller, principal of a self-titled consulting firm in Stamford, Connecticut, said in a telephone interview. “It smacks of confusion at the highest ranks of GM.”

GM fell 83 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $31.42 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have dropped 4.8 percent from their initial public offering price in November.

Liddell was unhappy about being passed over for the CEO job when Dan Akerson was named to the position in August, a person familiar with the matter said today. Liddell also differed with members of the management team over some strategies, including GM’s move into consumer auto lending, the person said.

Strategy Differences

He opposed acquiring subprime lender AmeriCredit Inc., which GM agreed to buy in July, the person said. Liddell had told analysts that he didn’t want the risk of financial assets on an industrial company’s balance sheet.

Chairman Ed Whitacre replaced onetime finance chief Fritz Henderson as CEO in December 2009, a month before Liddell succeeded Ray Young, who is now CFO of Archer Daniels Midland Co.

“Liddell did not go to GM to be CFO forever,” Keller said. “He had to join GM with the presumption that he was the heir apparent. When they picked someone else, he wasn’t going to stay.”

Liddell said today on a conference call with reporters that he has accomplished all he wanted both at GM and as a CFO and wants to pursue something different.

“My CFO days might be behind me as of April 1,” Liddell said. “I have a number of interesting ideas but none of them have CFO on it.”