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New GM CEO to do ‘whatever it takes’ to save company

Even bankruptcy, if it will save firm, new CEO says

New GM CEO Fritz Henderson

New GM CEO Fritz Henderson

DETROIT – General Motors’ new chief executive said Tuesday he is ready to take the company into bankruptcy in order to save it.

In his first news conference since taking over GM on Monday, Fritz Henderson said he has been given a clear mandate: Make GM successful by “whatever it takes.”

“If I didn’t want to be part of a bankruptcy, if we had to do that, I would have just said, ‘No, I don’t want to be part of it,’ ” Henderson said about accepting his new job.

Gone are ousted-CEO Rick Wagoner’s strong protests against bankruptcy and the caveats about damaging the company’s brands and sales.

To meet the Obama administration’s demands for a more aggressive turnaround plan, Henderson said the automaker will need to take further measures to restructure the company – including possibly closing more plants than expected.

“We need to reinvent General Motors and we need to do it in a very, very abbreviated time period . . . so that we’re not spending our time careening from crisis to crisis,” Henderson said.

He repeated that GM, which is staying afloat with a $13.4 billion U.S. government loan, would prefer to restructure outside of court but said that a government-sponsored bankruptcy was more probable, especially with White House demands for a balance sheet with less debt.

Henderson took over as CEO after Wagoner’s resignation Sunday. Wagoner was asked to step down as part of the White House auto task force’s plan to help the ailing company, which lost nearly $70 billion over the past two years. Obama has given GM 60 days to come up with a more aggressive turnaround plan.

If GM can’t make that deadline, Henderson indicated bankruptcy could come quicker than expected.

“If it’s just quite clear to us that it can’t be done, then we’ll move faster,” he said.

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