Microsoft executive takes key GM post
Liddell could be in line to lead firm
DETROIT - General Motors Co. has hired the chief financial officer of
Chris Liddell will become GM’s finance chief starting next year and report directly to interim chief executive Ed Whitacre Jr., who also is a newcomer to the automaker. The 51-year-old Liddell is the first permanent top manager hired from outside the company since it left bankruptcy protection in July. Whitacre, who says he wants to shake up GM’s slow and rigid culture, has pushed out top executives and promoted younger managers.
GM’s announcement yesterday of Liddell’s appointment led several industry analysts to say he may be trying out to take the permanent CEO position, perhaps as early as next year. The hiring also shows that GM can attract top talent despite its uncertain future and pay limits imposed by its majority stockholder, the US government.
Liddell replaces Ray Young, who was transferred to GM’s operations in China. The former head of the government’s task force on autos wrote that GM had the weakest finance operation that task force members had seen in a major company.
Liddell, a former investment banker and Oxford University graduate, brings from his tenure with
The New Zealand native could be taking the CFO job to learn the automotive business, management experts say.
Whitacre, 68, and the former head of AT&T Inc., said he does not want the permanent chief executive job.
Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management, says it’s hard to imagine Liddell leaving a strong global icon such as Microsoft for an “eroded pillar of an old economy’’ without being dangled an opportunity to run it.
If he gets the top job, Liddell would be the first foreign-born GM leader in the 101-year-old company’s history, said John Heitmann, a professor at the University of Dayton.