Rick Wagoner's forced resignation proves the common stereotype: nice guys finish last. He is a man who doesn't live in excess, is honest, works hard, and values philanthropy. But he isn't just a nice guy he's a smart businessman. I know this because Rick Wagoner is my friend.
Rick, a GM guy, has worked his entire life for the company, a little over three decades. It was eight years ago, in the midst of another recession, that Rick stood up and took on the challenging role of CEO, because he loved and believes in GM. For years we've talked Duke basketball -- but for the last year I've been emailing him to say, "Don't you ever have an escape fantasy? (Mine is to open a gelato stand on the streets of Sydney.) Rick never dreamt of other things. Instead, no matter how much I pushed ("pub in Ireland?") he'd tell me he loved his job and just wanted to make sure that the people of GM were happy.
Too many people focus on GM's market cap and forget the achievements GM has made under Rick's leadership. Like the fact that Buick tied with Jaguar for first place in the latest J.D. Power ranking of dependability. Or how Rick's decision to put enormous R and D into the development of the lithium-ion battery has resulted in, a longer lasting and more efficient battery than the Toyota Prius's. Unfortunately he won't be at GM to see the battery power the Chevrotlet Volt in 2010, this year's most anticipated hybrid.
GM didn't cause the recession we're seeing today. In fact, GM is arguably the most prepared auto company to come out of this recession as the leader in the auto-industry because of Rick Wagoner's work. The auto-industry lost a competent CEO in a time when they need people like Rick Wagoner most.
Written with James C. Elbaor