Whitacre Confirmed as GM Chief

Vows to repay governments by June

Ed Whitacre said on Jan. 25 he agreed to be permanent chief executive and chairman at General Motors. Whitacre had stepped in as the temporary CEO after Fritz Henderson quit the position last December as the number one American auto company reeled from financial crisis.

"Having spent the past few months learning the business, meeting with our employees, customers and dealers, and working with the GM leadership team, I was both honored and pleased to accept this role," Whitacre said.

"This is a great company with an even greater future, and I want to be part of it," he said.

A former chairman and CEO of telecom giant AT&T, Whitacre was first installed to the posts in a new company board controlled in large part by the U.S. government under GM's bankruptcy plan. Whitacre was described in a recent Wall Street Journal report as a hard-charging Texan with a penchant for killing rattlesnakes for sport. He is known for taking over companies and imposing his will on its employees, starting at the top, the report said.

GM entered into bankruptcy protection on June 1 last year with liabilities of $172.8 billion and $48.4 billion in debt. Whitacre expressed the GM board's commitment that the company would pay back in full the U.S. Treasury and the Canadian and Ontario government loans by June. "We've made significant progress in the past couple of months, so much so that I can confirm with certainty that we will pay back in full the U.S. Treasury and Canadian and Ontario government loans by June," Whitacre said. "This represents a significant milestone in our journey back to being a profitable and viable company."

The automaker had said it would make its first payment of $1.2 billion last month on a $6.7 billion debt to the U.S. Treasury. GM also said then it would begin to repay a 1.5 billion Canadian dollar loan and intends to pay off that loan quickly.

The automaker has already repaid a 900 million euro bridge loan to the Opel trust.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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