Rattner: Why I Fired GM's Wagoner

Former car czar calls deficiencies 'appalling'
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 21, 2009 3:33 PM CDT
Former GM CEO Rick Wagoner.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
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(Newser) – Barack Obama's former car czar says he had no choice but to fire GM's Rick Wagoner. "Everyone knew Detroit's reputation for insular, slow-moving cultures," Steven Rattner writes in an essay for Fortune. "Even by that low standard, I was shocked by the stunningly poor management that we found, particularly at GM, where we encountered, among other things, perhaps the weakest finance operation any of us had ever seen in a major company." Wagoner himself was “likable, dedicated, and knowledgeable,” but he “set a tone of ‘friendly arrogance'" for the company.

Rattner's team was "appalled by the lack of sound analysis" to justify expenditures, and "cultural deficiencies were equally stunning." Under Wagoner, executives worked behind “locked and guarded glass doors,” Rattner writes, using private elevators to get to private garages so as to never see their subordinates. His team thought nothing of the fact that they had wasted $21 billion in 2008 and $13 billion in the first quarter of 2009, and they blamed everyone but themselves for their financial troubles. (Read more Rick Wagoner stories.)