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Whitacre, Ex-AT&T Head, Takes Permanent CEO Job at GM

Former AT&T Inc. (T) CEO Ed Whitacre is taking over as the permanent head of General Motors.

Whitacre, whom the Obama administration appointed as the ailing carmaker’s chairman last summer, has served as interim CEO since Dec. 1 – that’s when the GM board ousted top execs Frederick Henderson and Rick Wagoner.

The Wall Street Journal said GM’s recruiters had their eyes on several CEO candidates but that Whitacre grew “more and more” comfortable in the CEO chair over the past month-and-a-half, according to an unnamed source.

“It makes sense because Ed has put his management in place,” the source told the Journal.

To that point, Whitacre even has hired two of his former AT&T colleagues to lobby for GM.

Whitacre retired from AT&T in 2007, after serving 17 years as a CEO in the telecom industry. He received one of the largest retirement packages to that point – a pension totaling more than $158.5 million, with an additional $122,000 annually from AT&T for personal benefits including country club fees and health care coverage.

But he came out of retirement last June when the White House asked him to lead bankrupt GM, which was being financially propped up by the Wall Street bailouts. Now, Whitacre said he’s staying on at GM to “help continue the company’s road back to success.”

“Having spent the past few months learning the business, meeting with our employees, customers and dealers, and working with the GM leadership team, I was both honored and pleased to accept this role,” Whitacre said in a prepared statement. “This is a great company with an even greater future, and I want to be part of it.”

Whitacre also said GM will “pay back in full,” by this June, the billions in bailout money it has received from the U.S. and Canadian governments.

“This represents a significant milestone in our journey back to being a profitable and viable company,” he said.


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