New Driver At GmKathleen Kerwin
Another bean counter moves ahead in a business once run by car guys. On June 28, Richard Wagoner, General Motors' CFO and a confidant of Chief Executive Jack Smith, was named to head the company's core North American auto business.
Wagoner is the prototype of the young quasi-outsiders now running the auto maker. Like many, he began in the New York treasurer's office, hired there in 1977 after receiving his Harvard MBA. But he spent most of his career overseas--working as finance vice-president in Europe under Smith, then heading GM's extremely successful Brazilian operation. (A Duke alumnus and die-hard basketball fan, he monitored the 1992 college championship via phone from South America.)
Promoted to CFO in late 1992, Wagoner oversaw the effort to shrink GM's yawning pension deficit and begin restoring the company's credibility with Wall Street. He also has had to soothe suppliers riled by tumultuous former purchasing chief J. Ignacio Lpez. The Spaniard's price cuts have stuck. What hasn't is health-nut Lpez' ban on junk food: Wagoner delights in serving Twinkies at staff meetings.