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General Motors is seeking 'motivating, inspirational' CEO, Whitacre says

Tue, 15 Dec 2009 00:00:00 -0800

General Motors Co.'s board is looking inside and outside the automaker for “a motivating, inspirational leader” to be its next chief executive, said Ed Whitacre, chairman and interim CEO.

Whitacre said candidates don't need to be an existing CEO or even have strong auto credentials. But he would like a strong leader.

“A person that's a motivating, inspirational leader that's familiar with big companies -- manufacturing or industrial -- would be helpful,” he told reporters today.

Whitacre, who took over for ousted CEO Fritz Henderson two weeks ago, said he is not interested in the job long term.

Despite widespread industry criticism that GM's corporate culture lacks accountability, Whitacre said: “There's nothing wrong with the culture here. I know that word is used a lot, and I guess it's open to definition. We really have some talented people here."

Whitacre is currently working without pay as CEO; he draws his salary as chairman. The compensation committee of the board won't meet to talk about paying him for his CEO work until January, he said.

He reiterated that U.S. compensation restraints factor into the search for the next chief executive.

“I think somebody would be wanting to do this, more than for compensation. It's a bigger deal than that,” Whitacre said. “It's also about a desire to lead a big company.”

Only two GM employees -- then-CEO Fritz Henderson and one other person -- had cash salaries of more than $500,000 after U.S. pay czar Kenneth Feinberg capped GM executive pay in October.

GM has "ongoing conversations" with Feinberg's office about the new CEO's compensation, he said.

By Chrissie Thompson- Automotive News