At GM, CFO Will Ride Shotgun Next to Wagoner

Fritz Henderson, popular with labor, elevated to the president's job as carmaker continues to dodge obstacles. VP Ray Young takes his place as fina...
Stephen Taub and Roy HarrisMarch 4, 2008

In a major realignment of General Motors senior management under CEO Rick Wagoner, the giant carmaker named chief financial officer Frederick (Fritz) A. Henderson as its new president and chief operating officer.

Henderson will be replaced as CFO by Ray Young, currently group vice president-finance, said Wagoner, who called it “an opportune time to further bolster our top leadership structure,” and who added that “it’s the right time to reestablish GM’s traditional president and chief operating officer position.”

Internally at GM, the elevation of Henderson was seen as a way of freeing the 55-year-old Wagoner from everyday management chores so that he could spend more time strategizing to help traverse GM’s excruciatingly difficult time of global competition.

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One of GM’s more colorful characters — especially fond of his red Corvette, for example — Henderson, 49, has earned an unusual reputation for fairness among the United Auto Workers, where he has been the main company representative in difficult talks in recent years. As GM has sought ways to pare costs, Henderson has often been on the spot, both in the U.S. and in operations abroad.

Henderson was promoted to CFO in January 2006 when John Devine’s five-year contract expired. Devine had joined GM with much fanfare in December 2000 after having retired from Ford Motor Co. as an executive vice president and CFO the previous year.

Before becoming CFO, Henderson was chairman of GM Europe and a group vice president. His elevation to CFO had been seen as an attempt to help the company recover from severe losses. Prior to going to Europe, Henderson was involved with the company’s China expansion — which also has been roundly heralded as successful.

Henderson joined the treasurer’s office in 1984. And after holding a variety of management positions there — at the company’s former Delphi unit and at finance division GMAC — he served as president and managing director of GM do Brasil from 1997 to 2000. His term as president of GM Latin America, Africa, and Mideast followed from 2000 to 2002, when he became president of GM Asia Pacific. He was shifted to GM Europe in June 2004.

The global operating experience, as well as that with cost controls, could be especially valuable for meeting GM’s challenges, since so many of its problems seem to reflect the presence of too many brands and models, compared to the slimmer, simpler product-line offerings of powerhouses like Toyota and Honda.

CEO Wagoner, who will have both Henderson and Young report to him, said Young brings a wealth of finance and operating experience to the CFO role, including leading GM do Brasil to record business results in his most recent assignment.

Young has long been on the GM fast-track ever since joining the automaker after graduating from the University of Chicago’s MBA program with a specialization in international business in 1986. He started as an entry-level financial analyst.

Prior to his new appointment, he was Group Vice President of GM Global Finance.

Over the years, Young has held many executive positions within General Motors throughout the world. He was President and Managing Director of GM Brazil for four years, and Vice President and CFO of GM North America before he headed to Brazil.