By Alisa Priddle
Detroit Free Press.
Mary Barra has cemented her leadership of General Motors with Monday’s board of directors decision to make her both chairman of the board and CEO in a show of confidence in her skills leading one of the world’s largest automakers.
The promotion is effective immediately. Barra, 54, replaces outgoing chairman Theodore Solso, who will stay on the board as lead independent director, offering a counterpart to Barra’s consolidated power.
The move returns GM to a past practice. Barra’s predecessor, Dan Akerson, was both chairman and CEO when he retired in January 2014. When Barra succeeded him as CEO only, some raised the question of whether gender was a factor in the decision.
But the separation of duties for a new CEO as they grow into the position is a long-standing practice at GM.
Going back to 1993, history shows past CEOs Akerson, Ed Whitacre, Rick Wagoner and John Smith all also held the chairman title by the end of their tenure. Fritz Henderson did not, but his brief nine-month CEO stint during bankruptcy restructuring in 2009 did not afford him enough time to add the extra duties before he was let go.
In an earlier era, from 1958 to the end of Robert Stempel’s reign at the top in late 1992, GM combined the positions from the initial appointment.
Giving Barra both titles now shows the board is pleased with her accomplishments as she approaches her second anniversary leading the company.
“At a time of unprecedented industry change, the board concluded it is in the best interests of the company to combine the roles of chair and CEO in order to drive the most efficient execution of our plan and vision for the future,” said Solso.
“With GM consistently delivering on its targets and on track to generate significant value for its shareholders, this is the right time for Mary to assume this role.”