DealZone

from Environment Forum:

GM, Chrysler cleared executive decks in 2009

When 2009 began, both General Motors and Chrysler were sliding toward bankruptcy. As the year ends, both companies have survived to fight another day.

The same can't be said for their senior executives.

Of the top 10 executives at GM's glass-towered Detroit headquarters in January, only one -- Bob Lutz -- remains.  At Chrysler, only two of the 10 highest-ranking executives are still in Auburn Hills.  

At GM, the churn took a dramatic toll at the vice president level. Of the 55 top executives, including vice presidents and divisional leaders, who were at GM at the start of the year, 26 have left the automaker.  Of the remainder, few remain in the same positions they held, according to a Reuters tally.

The sweep was made near complete on Dec. 1 when the board at General Motors Co parted company with former chief executive Fritz Henderson after he had the post for only eight months.  

Only at Ford did any of the former Big Three -- now called the Detroit Three -- automakers kept the slate of top executives pretty much intact.  Only two of Ford's top 10 executives have left; both retired.

DealZone Daily

Auto maker General Motors is grappling with the future of its European units Saab and Opel after one sale collapsed and the other was pulled, targeting the bulk of its 9,000 job cuts at Opel’s German factories.

Bookseller Borders UK called in the administrators yesterday, adding its name to a growing list of failed British high street retailers. Administrator MCR is hoping to sell the business, bought by Valco (the private equity arm of turnaround specialist Hilco) in July this year, as a going concern.

Lachlan Murdoch, son of News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch, sold some $27.6 million of his shares in his father’s company as he bought 50 percent of Daily Mail & General Trust’s radio operations in Australia.

General Motors staff has IPO dreams

CHINA-AUTOS/Ever wonder how General Motors is holding onto its top talent? 

After a traumatic bankruptcy and series of federal bailouts, the company still owes billions of dollars to the U.S. and Canadian governments. It lost $1.2 billion in its latest quarter, and only sees a slight uptick in auto sales next year.    

The days of banner-year profits and bonuses must seem far off for GM’s executives and finance staff.  GM’s Chairman has already said pay caps imposed on companies by the U.S. government’s pay czar make it tough to hire executives.

While other job opportunities are obviously limited in Detroit, and they may have nowhere better to go in the industry,  the company’s plans for a 2010 IPO has emerged as a key staff retention tool, one of its top executives said on Tuesday.

GM’s debt designs

Announcing a third-quarter operating loss, the government-owned automaker said it would begin paying down its $6.7 billion debt to the U.S. government ahead of schedule. Most financial experts would agree that paying off debt is a good thing.

The government extended almost $50 billion in financing to GM but agreed to convert most of that into a 61 percent equity stake in the automaker. A congressional oversight panel said the government was unlikely to recover all of the financing it provided GM.

Banks that paid off their government bailouts early were able to shrug the pay czar off their backs and return to the time-honored practice of paying their executives whatever they pleased. It’s unclear whether GM will be able to do the same once it pays off the government. After all, taxpayers will still be majority shareholders after all debts are paid. Ken Feinberg may well wind up with a desk at GM’s HR office.

GM’s Opel Surprise

“You wonder if your chance will ever come or if you’re stuck in square one.”

When I heard about GM keeping its Opel unit, that line from a song by British band Coldplay came to my mind. After all those long nights of paltering on job cuts and money, GM was having a change of heart.

The sale of Opel to a group led by Canadian car parts maker Magna — announced in September — was widely considered a done deal. Turns out, it was less done than more. Citing improving business conditions and the strategic importance of Opel, GM decided it would be better to alienate the German government that provided it with a loan to sweeten the sale of the unit to Magna than to lose the business. GM said it would repay the rest of the 1.5 billion euro ($2.2 billion) bridge loan if Berlin requested. The loan helped save Opel from being sucked into GM’s dip into bankruptcy this year.

Magnum’s Opel

General Motors may soon get the long-delayed green light to sign over carmaker Opel to Canada’s Magna. EU antitrust regulators have no plans to block Magna’s acquisition of GM’s European arm, a European Commission spokesman said in Brussels, easing fears the transaction could run out of gas in debate over German state aid to the mostly German-staffed company.

Magna hopes to conclude the deal within weeks of signing a contract. That should be that, right? Well, hardly. For one thing, Spanish workers at Opel’s plant at Figueruelas have voted to strike in protest at cuts included in the Magna package. And European politicians say GM and the Opel Trust should have the option of reopening the bidding process.

But the jilted other bidder, RHJ, says it is no longer interested in doing a deal, so going back to the auction block is probably a nonstarter. And with European auto titan Volkswagen saying sales will likely stay stalled next year, the political will to get a deal done is about all Opel has going for it right now. The company is poised to run out of cash by mid-January.

The View From The Dealer Floor

Major automakers don’t sell cars to American consumers; they sell to dealers. And the biggest U.S. dealership chain by a wide margin is Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based AutoNation, which sold over 440,000 new and used vehicles last year.

So when AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson talks, auto executives listen — or so you would think.

In an interview with Reuters2ndautonationmikejacksonsep20082, Jackson said Detroit automakers had largely ignored his warnings over the past decade that the U.S. industry was headed for a crisis.

‘New GM’ Gets a Visit from a Shareholder

obamalordstown1 GM’s Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant has become a symbol of both GM’s hard times and its best hopes for a turnaround after a $50 billion federal investment. A recent bump in sales because of the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program has allowed GM to call back more than 1,000 workers from layoff.   So it was a natural backdrop for a return visit by President Obama, who held a roundtable with workers and then gave a stump speech from the factory floor for his economic policies and health care reform.   But this is not your father’s GM anymore and nothing about it as clear-cut as it seems — even if you are the leader of the free world and head of the government that holds a controlling stake in the automaker.     At one point, Obama — veering from his prepared remarks — suggested that health-care reform would allow the UAW-represented workers in the audience to negotiate better wages.

“Think about it. If you are a member of the union right now, you’re spending all your time negotiating about health care. You need to be spending some time negotiating about wages, but you can’t do it,” he said.

 

In fact, the UAW locked itself into a contract limiting wages and changes to health care, without the ability to negotiate with a threat of strike, until 2015. These stands were agreed to by the union at the prodding of the Obama administration, which demanded that union autoworkers accept lower wages — as a condition to the bailout that saved Lordstown — to match non-union workers at Toyota plants in Kentucky and Honda plants in Ohio.

The Car Business: Self-loathing and Chinese Takeaways

Nobody hates cars as much as the car industry does these days. The business is crippling some of its biggest players and behold the dearth of industry names queuing up to buy other automakers.

Opel in Germany is being sold yet are Volkswagen, Porsche, BMW or Daimler anywhere to be found? Spot the empty parking lot.

Without the Chinese, auto sector M&A right now is about as exciting as a 1981 Yugo.

GM driving uphill with new ads

Once upon a time, when $1 million was big money, General Motors spent millions on an advertising campaign on three U.S. television networks featuring the sing-along slogan, “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”

Powered by the link between Chevrolet and other American loves, GM’s share of U.S. auto sales was 35 percent in 1980. In 2009, GM’s share of the American auto market is a mere 19 percent, as it struggles with a backlash from an unpopular federal bailout and bankruptcy.

Chevrolet is hardly as American as apple pie anymore, but Chevrolet and GM will soon launch an aggressive marketing campaign to change deep-set perceptions of American consumers that GM cars and truck are inferior to imports like Toyota and Honda. The campaign, which will feature new company chairman Ed Whitacre and the slogan, “May the best car win,” will challenge notions of inferior products and will be waged on a myriad of television networks and print publications, but will also employ the Internet.