Wagoner: Optimist, Survivor, Martyr?
The long, unhappy reign of Rick Wagoner
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2009 1:42 PM CDT
General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner talks about the company's restructuring plans during a news conference in Detroit, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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(Newser) – During Rick Wagoner’s 9-year stint at the wheel, GM lost its place as the world’s top automaker, cut tens of thousands of jobs, and saw shares fall from $70 to less than $3. But through it all Wagoner fended off all challengers—including the likes of Kirk Kerkorian—and remained unflaggingly optimistic, the New York Times observes. Even on the way out the door, he told employees to “ignore the doubters, because I know it is a company with a great future.”

Wagoner "consistently stopped short of dramatic action," the Wall Street Journal notes, to eliminate an excess of brands, rein in health and labor costs, or plan for a spike in oil prices. And he just as consistently resisted talk of bankruptcy as a reorganization strategy. Despite the missteps—which Wagoner steadfastly denied until last fall—there’s a sense in Detroit that the ex-CEO may become a kind of auto-industry martyr. Michigan’s governor called Wagoner a “sacrificial lamb.”