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Rattner's Book Shows Ghosn Could Have Had It All

Steven Rattner
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Steven Rattner

As advance copies of former Auto Czar Steve Rattner's book start to filter around, one of the more intriguing nuggets is the story surrounding the interest Rattner had in Renault-NissanCEO Carlos Ghosn. In his book Rattner says he offered the GMCEO position to Ghosn, but the Renault-Nissan boss politely declined. That offer and rejection says a lot about both Rattner and Ghosn.

For Rattner its yet another example showing that he and the auto task force had little use for Rick Wagoner, Fritz Henderson, or many of the other GM executives. This is not the first time we've heard this. Rattner and his team concluded early on the only way to re-make and save GM would be booting out the old guard with old views of the auto business. It speaks to the reason they brought in Ed Whitacre Jr. as chairman. They wanted and got fresh blood that would eventually purge a lot of the old GM leadership.

As for Ghosn, the story shows his desire to add GM in a Nissan-Renault alliance was more important than the chance to run GM by itself. And in fact, Rattner's book says that when Ghosn turned down the GM CEO offer he indicated he wanted GM to join his alliance. Some might find this baffling. I don't. Ghosn has instilled a culture in Renault-Nissan that he wants and believes in. Why would he give that up to go through the long road of gutting and changing GM?

Ultimately Steve Rattner trying to lure Ghosn confirms what we suspected at the time and what we know to be true now. The White House was hell bent on re-making the GM leadership with aggressive executives who would take advantage of the lifeline that had been thrown to the auto maker.

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