General Motors' announcement that CEO Ed Whitacre is leaving, to be replaced by board member Dan Akerson, shows that GM's owners aren't quite ready to give the company back to the Detroit guys.
Basically what you have is one member of the big-corporation CEO club replacing another. Whitacre, 68, had been CEO of AT&T; Akerson is the former CEO of XO Communications, Nextel and General Instrument Corp.
Most recently, Akerson has been a managing director at The Carlyle Group, a major U.S. private equity firm. He will step down from his role at the firm when he takes the GM helm.
I know what you're thinking: Has the guy ever seen the inside of a car plant or talked to a dealer? The short answer is that it doesn't matter.
Akerson is one of the non-automotive corporate pros that the feds put on the GM board in July 2009 to get GM jerked into shape. His move to the CEO chair shows that the board -- in other words, the U.S. government, Canadian government, UAW, bondholders et al., who own the company -- still wants to keep a tight rein on operations. This is a far cry from the old board's relationship with GM management.
Take note, though. Akerson is 61, which suggests that one of his main tasks will be to find a successor. When he does, GM might have a car guy in the top job … if the board is ready to take off the training wheels.