Ford’s CEO Spoke with GM Chairman in Wake of Fritz Henderson’s Dismissal

During an interview with CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Thursday, Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally said that he had spoken with General Motors’ chairman and acting CEO Ed Whitacre earlier this week.

“Well, matter of fact,” Mulally told Cramer, “we did talk yesterday.” He declined to offer specific details of the conversation other than to say, "He’s reaching out just the way that I did when I came in."

Whitacre stepped in to serve as General Motors’ interim CEO this past Monday when Fritz Henderson resigned that position at the behest of the company’s board of directors. Whitacre also continues to serve as the chairman of GM’s board.

Three days after assuming his role as acting CEO, Whitacre announced that a shake-up of the company’s executive roster. Yesterday GM spokesman Chris Preuss announced the departure of Buick-GMC head, Michael Richards. Richards’ resignation comes just eight days after the former Ford executive joined GM. Preuss also announced the pending departure of Brent Dewar who joined GM this past July as head of its Chevrolet division.

Whitacre has also relieved Bob Lutz of his duties as head of marketing and replaced him with Susan Docherty who took control of the automaker’s U.S. sales operations this past October. Immediately following Henderson’s departure, some had speculated that Docherty might be among the candidates considered to replace him.

Regarding his conversation with Whitacre, Mulally said, "You want to be supportive, because we have a lot of industry issues that we work together."

Like Whitacre, Mulally was an auto industry outsider when Ford hired him away from aviation giant Boeing Company three years ago. Mulally said that since becoming CEO of Ford, he has had talks with other auto industry executives including Fritz Henderson’s predecessor, Rick Wagoner.

The Obama administration requested Wagoner’s resignation last march as the automaker underwent reorganization of its operations prior to entering into a government-funded bankruptcy which gave the U.S. Treasury Department and American taxpayers a 61% stake in the company.

In a Fortune magazine article published in October, former head of the administration’s autos task force, Steve Rattner said that Wagoner had cautioned his agency against bringing in an industry outsider to replace him. According to the article, Wagoner cited daily conversations with Mulally as the basis for his concerns.

Responding to Rattner’s assertion, Mulally said, "I don’t remember it that way. I will say that when I arrived [at Ford] I reached out to all of the industry insiders, including Rick, and Rick was very, very supportive."

Posted in In the News

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