GM's Whitacre Names His Team

General Motors Chairman Ed Whitacre made engineering chief Mark Reuss the president of GM's North American operations, and moved Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz to adviser for global design and product development.

Nick Reilly, who was named in July to be international chief, will lead GM's European business, Detroit-based GM said today in a statement on its Web site. Whitacre also said he will use director Stephen Girsky as an adviser, people familiar with the plans said.

The moves put Whitacre's stamp on senior management three days after he took on the chief executive officer's job as directors ousted Fritz Henderson. Whitacre, the 68-year-old former CEO and chairman of AT&T Inc., was appointed in June to lead GM's revamped board by the Treasury's auto task force.

"In these situations it's pretty normal," said Van Conway, a turnaround expert and partner of Conway Mackenzie & Dunleavy in Birmingham, Michigan. "You're talking about a company that has had deep chaos. GM has been known to have had a lot of insiders that have moved up over the years."

Whitacre also promoted Tim Lee to president of international operations overseeing the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Africa and Middle East region. He had been vice president of manufacturing and labor relations.

More Changes

Whitacre will give his first update as CEO on GM's business on Dec. 8, the company said. GM left Chapter 11 in July with the U.S. government as majority owner, and Whitacre has said he wants to start repaying federal loans this month.

The U.S. government is owed $6.7 billion and also owns a 61% stake in the biggest domestic automaker, which said it still expects an initial public offering in 2010's second half.

Susan Docherty, promoted to chief of sales in October from the head of the Buick-GMC division, is appointed vice president vehicle sales, service and marketing. She takes some of the duties Lutz had handled since July.

Lutz will act as adviser on design and global product development. Tom Stephens remains vice chairman of global product operations and will add global purchasing to his duties.

Diana Tremblay becomes vice president of manufacturing and labor relations. Denise C. Johnson, most recently vehicle line director and chief engineer for global small cars, was named vice president of labor relations. Karl-Friedrich Stracke was promoted to vice president of engineering from executive director of engineering. Chris Preuss, vice president of communications, reports directly to Whitacre; he had reported to Lutz.

"There is the need to part ways with some of the old culture at GM, both symbolically and substantively," said Mike McGrath, executive chairman of turnaround consultant Thomas Group in Dallas. McGrath's most-recent book, "Business Decisions!", features a chapter on GM. "I think this is something that has been in the works and is probably very appropriate."

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