Financially strapped General Motors Corp. is changing finance chiefs.
John Devine, whose five-year contract expires this month, is out. He is being replaced by Frederick “Fritz” Henderson, chairman of GM Europe and a group vice president, who will take over as vice chairman and chief financial officer on January 1. Devine agreed to stay on for up to one year and serve as vice chairman.
In a press release, chairman and chief executive officer Rick Wagoner said Henderson is “an exceptionally strong fit” to succeed Devine as CFO, given his “tremendous background in finance and the auto business, having led all of GM’s global regions outside North America.”
Henderson joined the treasurer’s office in 1984. After holding a variety of management positions there, at the company’s former Delphi unit, and at finance division GMAC, Henderson served as president and managing director of GM do Brasil from 1997 to 2000; president of GM Latin America, Africa, and Mideast from 2000 to 2002; and president of GM Asia Pacific from 2002 to 2004. He has been in charge of GM Europe since June 2004.
Devine 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.
During his nearly five-year tenure at the world’s largest automaker, however, GM’s share price has fallen by more than half. In addition, its accounting practices are being investigated by federal regulators.
GM, which has lost nearly $4 billion this year, recently announced a sweeping cost-cutting plan that calls for eliminating 30,000 jobs and closing up to 12 facilities in an attempt to turn around its North America operations.
Experts quoted in press reports have cited Henderson as a crack cost-cutter who oversaw the elimination of 12,000 jobs in 2004. The 47 year-old is also said to be a leading candidate to eventually succeed Wagoner as head of the company.
“They are bringing more horsepower to fix North America,” Brian Johnson, a Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst, told Bloomberg. “His background seems to be in line with what is needed in the U.S., which is getting people off the payroll.”