THE STASH DECEMBER 22, 2009
So it sounds like GM's new CFO--Chris Lidell, recently of Microsoft--is a real catch. According to today's Wall Street Journal:
GM began wooing Mr. Liddell before he left Microsoft, said a person familiar with the situation. He quit the software maker during the early stages of those talks, begun in early fall, to consider other jobs, including a CFO post at another major company as well as private-equity opportunities, this person said. GM ended up "chasing him for a long time," this person added. ...
Since joining Microsoft in 2005, Mr. Liddell became well regarded among investors for helping to guide it through a bumpy period as it shifts to a more mature company from the hot growth story it once was.
And God knows GM could use a little help with its finances. As the Journal reminds us:
The finance team led by Mr. Young was criticized by the board of directors in recent meetings for lacking "basic bread-and-butter financial discipline" and being short on accountability, according to people who attended the meetings. The department suffered the public embarrassment in 2009 of running out of money, leading to GM's bankruptcy.
GM hasn't made a profit since 2004, and had to overhaul its accounting and finance staffs in past years due to weakness in controls and other matters.
Still, the fact that the Journal highlights Lidell's "potential to ascend to a chief executive post" is more than a little disconcerting. As I explain in this recent piece, one of GM's big problems over the last several decades is that its top executives have mostly come from the financial side of the company rather than the operations side. Lidell seems more competent than his predecessors in GM's finance office. But, with his extensive CFO and investment-banking resume, giving him the top job would do nothing to address the deeper conceptual issues that have dogged GM's leadership.