June 10, 2009, 10:21 AM — The former head of AT&T Inc. will become chairman of General Motors Co. when the auto maker leaves bankruptcy later this summer, GM announced today.
The appearance of Edward Whitacre Jr., 67, former chairman and CEO of AT&T, pleased telecom industry analysts who knew Whitacre's reputation as the leader of AT&T and its predecessor companies from 1990 to 2007.
"Who said retired CEOs are forgotten?" said Jeffrey Kagan, an independent wireless and telecom analyst. "The man who transformed AT&T from the smallest to the largest of the nation's Baby Bells in just over one decade is now going to be chairman of the newer and much smaller GM."
Whitacre started with Southwestern Bell, later SBC, and through a series of acquisitions, including AT&T in 2005, built the largest provider of local, long distance and wireless services, GM said.
GM interim Chairman Ken Kresa said Whitacre's appointment is "a very auspicious beginning for the new GM. We look forward to working with him to complete the reinvention of GM and maximize the enormous potential of this new enterprise."
Whitacre said in a statement that he was honored to serve GM "at this critical juncture and take part in its reinvention."
Whitacre holds a degree in industrial engineering from Texas Technological University and is on the boards of ExxonMobile Corp. and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.
Whitacre and Kresa, along with current GM board members Philip Laskawy, Kathryn Marinello, Erroll Davis Jr., E. Nevill Isdell and CEO Frederick Henderson will serve as the nucleus of the new GM board, GM said in a statement.
Kagan called Whitacre "one of the most aggressive CEOs. He sees the future."
While Whitacre doesn't know the automobile business, Kagan added, "he has the unique ability to understand a business as it transforms itself. He was a big success in changing the telecom space. Perhaps he can be just as successful in transforming the automobile space."