RPT-NEWSMAKER-UPDATE 1-GM’s CEO opens door to new outsider

(Repeats to additional subscribers)

* Whitacre, GM outsider, opens door to new outsider CEO

* New GM CEO Akerson, 61, known as a quiet dealmaker

* Akerson faces challenge of shaking up GM culture
(Adds details on Akerson’s political contributions, recasts
first four paragraphs, changes byline, adds NEW YORK to
dateline)

By Ben Klayman and Megan Davies

DETROIT/NEW YORK, Aug 12 (BestGrowthStock) – Dan Akerson arrives at
General Motors as CEO with the same mandate given his
predecessor just eight months ago: bring new leadership to an
automaker still struggling with the legacy of its government
bailout.

Akerson, 61, replaces Ed Whitacre as of September in an
abrupt shake-up GM [GM.UL] announced just a day before it had
planned to file for a politically charged stock offering
expected to be one of the largest ever.

The suddenness of Whitacre’s departure — coming just a day
after a meeting of the top U.S. automaker’s board and announced
at an improvised teleconference for reporters and financial
analysts — stunned insiders.

GM’s financial advisers, who had spent weeks preparing an
IPO filing for U.S. securities regulators, scrambled to rewrite
complicated paperwork to take Whitacre out and put Akerson in,
one person with direct knowledge of the private process said.

Whitacre, who served as CEO at AT&T (T.N: ) and steered it
through a series of key mergers, remains GM chairman until the
end of the year. He had been expected to quit after guiding GM
through an IPO to reduce the U.S. government’s 61 percent
ownership stake.

Just a week ago, Whitacre, 68, said he had not given any
thought to resigning. “Everybody knows at my age I’m not a real
longtimer,” he told reporters.

A lanky Texan who confessed to feeling lost in Detroit and
commuted home by plane to San Antonio on weekends, Whitacre had
become the face of GM’s turnaround and starred in TV
commercials meant to mark its return from bankruptcy.

At GM, Whitacre became famous for spurning the PowerPoint
presentations that had become a symbol of the slow
decision-making process at the 102-year-old automaker.

After GM’s top executives were blasted for being out of
touch and riding to their offices at Detroit’s Renaissance
Center on a private elevator, Whitacre took pains to mix with
workers, showing up unannounced in offices and factories.

But Whitacre’s hands-off style of delegating also left him
appearing sometimes out of touch. Last week he said GM was
weeks away from an IPO filing, a statement that puzzled staff
who were almost finished with the needed work.

QUIET REPUBLICAN AS IPO PITCHMAN

Akerson, who will take over from Whitacre and lead GM’s
road show, becomes GM’s fourth CEO in 18 months.

A quiet and private executive, Akerson will also face the
pressure of becoming the face of GM in an industry where the
CEO is often called on to be the biggest salesman.

Like Whitacre, Akerson had a long career in the tightly
regulated telecommunications industry. He also has a history of
dealmaking as head of buyouts at private equity firm The
Carlyle Group [CYL.UL]. [ID:N12134657]

Akerson became head of global buyouts at Carlyle last July,
and was designated by the Treasury Department to serve on the
GM board in July 2009 after the automaker emerged from its
government-supported bankruptcy.

Analysts said Akerson heads off potential investor concern
about executive succession.

A former U.S. Navy officer who served on a destroyer from
1970 to 1975, Akerson supported fellow Navy veteran and
Republican John McCain for president.

In 2008, Akerson and his wife donated $80,800 to the
Republican Party and its candidates, and nothing to the
Democrats or now-President Barack Obama, according to the
Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.

The Obama administration has repeatedly said that it chose
its representatives on GM’s board, including Akerson, for their
qualifications without considering their politics.

‘NEVER AN IN-YOUR-FACE CEO’

Akerson began driving a black Cadillac CTS about a year
ago, around the time the White House asked him to join the GM
board.

He joined Carlyle in 2003 and was involved in some of the
firm’s biggest deals, including buyouts of energy firm Kinder
Morgan and media company Nielsen.

Earlier, Akerson was a protege of entrepreneur Craig McCaw,
a major backer of both XO and Nextel Communications, both of
which Akerson headed.

“He was never an in-your-face CEO,” said Jeff Kagan, an
independent telecom analyst. “This is an aggressive
businessman, but he’s very quiet.”

At Nextel, Akerson was known for taking charge of
complicated engineering meetings, for his quiet manner and for
his ruthless focus on the bottom line.

When he took his chief spokesman out to lunch, Akerson
would head to “his favorite Scottish restaurant, McDonald’s,”
said Daisy Khalifa, who worked with Akerson at Nextel.

Akerson lacks one quality analysts credit with giving Ford
Motor Co (F.N: ) Chief Executive Alan Mulally a leg up as an
outsider — experience in manufacturing.

Ford hired Mulally away from Boeing Co (BA.N: ) in 2006 and
as CEO, Mulally has been credited with leading a surprising
turnaround of the No. 2 U.S. automaker.

But GM former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, a legendary “car guy”
in Detroit, said that lack of experience won’t stop Akerson.

“Like many strong leaders, he has equally strong opinions,”
Lutz said, adding that he would have to listen to the new layer
of management Whitacre has put in place.

“If he can do that, GM will face a very bright future under
his leadership,” he said.
(Reporting by David Bailey, Bernie Woodall and Ben Klayman in
Detroit, Megan Davies, Soyoung Kim and Sinead Carew in New
York, David Lawder in Washington. Editing by Robert MacMillan)

RPT-NEWSMAKER-UPDATE 1-GM’s CEO opens door to new outsider