Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

GM Board Needs Gumption

Fritz Henderson

With the Supreme Court on the cusp of deciding whether to approve or block the sale of Chrysler, the restructuring of GM's board of directors is a story that may be overlooked. That would be a mistake. The new GM board faces one of the largest challenges ever in American business.

This company needs to get aggressive in transforming itself.

For years, the GM board went along with CEOs Rick Wagoner and Jack Smith. While Smith pushed GM to enter China and Wagoner was able to leverage GM's global assets, neither man could stop a long, painful slide in business here in the U.S. And many blame the GM board of directors for not pushing the company executives to go further, faster.

Just ask Jerry York. Yes, the advisor to billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian joined the GM board only after Kerkorian took such a large position in GM he had enough leverage to get a spot at the table. After a short stay on the GM board, a frustrated York resigned. He wanted GM to move quicker to unlock its value, cut brands, streamline. The auto maker fought him at every turn.

Now, due to a mandate from the White House, GM is remaking its board with half the members coming from outside the company. Yesterday, CEO Fritz Henderson told me he's heard from many business leaders who want to join the GM board. That's encouraging. Even better would be for the new board to have an aggressive approach.

GM can bounce back from this bankruptcy, IF it truly gets religion. While many of you are pulling for the company (I know because you e-mail me), there are just as many who have written off GM. Let's see if the new board can change that opinion.

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