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GM CFO Liddell to leave company

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General Motors Co. (GM-N) said on Thursday that Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell will leave the U.S. automaker a little more than a year after joining.

Liddell, 52, will leave GM on April 1. He joined the company in January 2010 and led its financial and accounting operations on a global basis.

Dan Ammann will succeed Liddell as CFO. The 38-year-old executive, who joined GM in March 2010, is currently vice president, finance and treasurer.

Maryann Keller, President at Maryann Keller & Associates, tells BNN that Liddell’s decision to quit was in some ways unsurprising, as he had ambitions to be the company’s CEO.

“From a personal standpoint, with that resume, you had to assume that he thought he was in line to be CEO,” she says.

“Liddell’s resume did not for a second suggest he wanted to be CFO forever.”

Liddell previously made it clear this was his ambition and he repeated Thursday that he had no interest in being a CFO at another company.

GM's board considered both Liddell and former Morgan Stanley banker Steve Girsky, now the company's vice chairman, as CEO candidates to succeed Whitacre after his sudden resignation last August on the brink of the IPO, people with knowledge of the process said. But the board concluded that neither was the right fit at that time, prompting Akerson, 62, to step aside as a director and take the job himself.
   
Akerson said Liddell was a leader in GM's IPO, as well running the finances through four consecutive profitable quarters. Liddell and Ammann were "the dynamic duo" in leading the company's finances, the CEO said, adding he expected a seamless transition.
   
Analysts have credited Liddell with a lot of the IPO's success. He also won over investors with promises to reduce debt to zero and build a "fortress balance sheet" that would protect GM during the inevitable downturns in the highly cyclical automotive industry.
   
Analysts praised Liddell's performance during GM's investor road show last fall when he wooed fund managers by promising that the automaker would never again become "a $100 billion pension plan with a small company attached."

Liddell's exit also clears the road for Mark Reuss, a person insiders see as a potential successor to Akerson.
   
The 47-year-old Reuss, who has spent his career at GM and was promoted to North American president by then-CEO Ed Whitacre, is known as a "car guy" and frank speaker who has been critical of the way GM management focused on financial aspects over the quality of its vehicles before its restructuring.
   
Last month, GM posted a full-year profit that was its first since 2004 and its largest since 1999, but its shares fell below the IPO price as investor concerns shifted to rising oil prices and the higher costs of launching and selling new cars.
   
The IPO was needed to allow GM to start paying back the Obama administration for it $50 billion bailout and a U.S. treasury spokesman said Thursday that federal officials were notified of the change, but not involved in the deliberations. The U.S. government owns a third of GM's outstanding shares.
   
Akerson also said the change had nothing to do with the company's performance in the first quarter, saying the fast start the company targeted was "intact."   

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