Whitacre to Step Down as GM’s CEO on September 1

General Motors’ chairman, Ed Whitacre, will step down as the company’s CEO on September 1.  Whitacre became the company’s interim CEO on December 1, 2009 when Fritz Henderson was asked to step down. In January, Whitacre announced that he would stay on as GM’s CEO indefinitely.

Whitacre will be replaced by former telecommunications executive and current GM board member Daniel Akerson.

Akerson, 61, is a former naval officer who currently serves as the head of global buyouts for The Carlyle Group private equity firm. He has served on GM’s board since July 2009.

Like Whitacre, a former CEO of AT&T, Akerson has spent most of his career in the communications sector. From 1983-1993, he was chief operating officer and then chief financial officer of MCI Communications Corporation. From 1996-2001, he served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Nextel Communications, Incorporated.

Speaking with analysts during a conference call this morning, Whitacre said he will continue as GM’s chairman through December 31, at which time Akerson will become the company’s new chairman while retaining his title as CEO.

During this morning’s conference call, Whitacre said the company’s board of directors has known that he would not serve as GM’s chief executive any longer than necessary. He also said that he and the board have complete confidence in Akerson who, he said, has kept a close eye on the company’s operations since joining the board last summer.

Akerson will be GM’s fourth chief executive in two years. Rick Wagoner served as GM’s chief financial officer before being named CEO in 2000. He agreed to step down as a condition of GM receiving the Obama administration’s $50 billion bailout package in early 2009.

Whitacre, whose straight-shooting, hands-on approach to management ruffled a few feathers when he assumed the reins of GM last December. Akerson has also been described as a “blunt-spoken, aggressive competitor.”

Akerson said he shares Whitacre’s vision for GM, but he has not provided any details concerning his personal priorities for the company. He has also declined to say whether or not there will be additional changes in the company’s management. Over the past year, there have been frequent and broad shakeups throughout GM’s top management as Whitacre worked to put together what he now calls “a broad and deep bench.”

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