Whitacre Abruptly Replaces Henderson Atop GM

"Fritz" Henderson has stepped down as CEO and Chairman Ed Whitacre will act as CEO while a new CEO is chosen. Is GM to be radically rebuilt?

(Bloomberg) — General Motors Chief Executive Officer "Fritz" Henderson is stepping down after eight months on the job, and Chairman Ed Whitacre is taking over on an interim basis.

A search for a permanent successor to Henderson "begins immediately," Whitacre said Tuesday in a statement released by GM. Directors accepted Henderson's resignation today at a meeting in Detroit, Whitacre said.

Henderson's tenure at the helm of the biggest U.S. automaker spanned GM's slide into bankruptcy on June 1 and its exit on July 10, backed by $50 billion in federal assistance. Henderson, 51, became CEO in March when President Barack Obama's auto task force asked Rick Wagoner to step aside.

"They're looking to rebuild the company in a completely different form," Maryann Keller, president of consultant Maryann Keller & Associates, told Bloomberg Television. "They're looking to bring in someone who has a completely different perspective."

Whitacre will serve daily, in Detroit

Whitacre, 68, the former chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc. (T), was selected by the auto task force to run a revamped board when Detroit-based GM left Chapter 11 with the government as the majority owner. Tuesday's personnel decisions were made by the board, not the Obama Administration, a U.S. official said.

With his new duties, Whitacre said he will be working at GM's Renaissance Center headquarters in Detroit on a "daily basis."

GM has formed a search committee to recruit a new CEO, said Chris Preuss, a company spokesman. The automaker notified U.S. officials about Whitacre's ascent and Henderson's departure, Preuss said.

Henderson "has done a remarkable job leading the company through a time of challenge, and momentum has been building over the past several months, but we all agreed changes needed to be made," Whitacre told reporters. He didn't take questions or elaborate on the executive shake-up.

Vice-Chairman Robert Lutz will speak at the Los Angeles Auto Show Wednesday in place of Henderson, Preuss told reporters in Detroit.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeff Green in Southfield, Michigan, at jgreen16@bloomberg.net; Bill Koenig in Southfield, Michigan, at wkoenig@bloomberg.net

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