Note to GM: Why Hide When You Have a Good Story To Tell?
Then there is the question of the CEO's star power. It is probably not enough to have a competent CEO, when Ford is led by rock star CEO Alan Mulally and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is nearly as revered. These two charismatic leaders regularly engage the media, and both are widely credited with taking sinking ships and making them float.
GM's Dan Akerson, by contrast, allows his image to be shaped by others.
In July, Akerson dismissed Joel Ewanick as GM's chief marketing officer because Ewanick violated company policy when he used various corporate accounts to gather $559 million for a marketing deal with the Manchester United soccer team. We know this because of media reports. And we know Akerson's reaction because The Detroit News reported remarks he made to GM employees. On the call, Akerson criticized leaks about Ewanick's dismissal and about GM finances, saying, "If you don't want to play by the rules, then you ought to work somewhere else.
In fact, Akerson called leaks "an act of treason." He spoke frankly about business conditions throughout the world. And he seemed to concede that GM failed, despite a bankruptcy purge of executives considered too insular, to centralize its management. "We're a global company that operates as small, little fiefdoms," Akerson said. "That's got to stop."
Here we have a tough-talking Navy veteran whose first auto industry job was as CEO of GM. It is hard to think that someone is not isolated when he starts at the top, rarely talks to reporters and compares leaks to treason.
No doubt Akerson finds it difficult to accept that a generally successful company, having recently completed the initial steps of a monumental turnaround, is regarded as a poor investment and a political football.
The truth is that reporters can be difficult, markets are irrational and U.S. politics are ugly getting uglier. Unfortunately, there really isn't any place to hide.
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