With GM going public today and bringing back billions to the taxpayers, we are seeing a batch of revisionist opinion pieces about Rick Wagoner, former head of the auto giant.
Malcolm Gladwell, a favorite writer of mine, wrote a fascinating review of Steven Rattner’s new book, Overhaul, about the restructuring of GM for the Obama Administration. Rattner is a Wall Street mover and shaker who headed the restructuring in Detroit. Rattner saw Wagoner as a bureaucratic company guy and ultimately fired him, bringing in crusty Ed Whitacre to oversee the saving of a big part of the American auto industry.
Gladwell sees Wagoner as the guy who did most of the heavy lifting—chopping people, making a historic deal with the UAW, building a Chinese business, developing the Cadillac CTS and Chevy Malibu, and initiating the Chevy Volt.
Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal also wrote a laudatory ode to Big Rick, former Duke basketball bench warmer.
I see Wagoner as the Gorbachev of General Motors. He was an important transitional figure who understood the company’s problems and tried his best to save the company without blowing it up.
Like Gorby, he had to go when everything imploded. Rattner is no Yeltsin, but the oligarchs of Wall Street will make billions like their counterparts in Russia did after the fall.
Question: Do you think Wagoner was Obama’s fall guy?