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Is Lutz GM's Heir Apparent?: Leadership Matters

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In my column on June 22, I questioned the appointment of Fritz Henderson as CEO of General Motors, not because Henderson isn't a good guy but because he was part of the old guard that created the insulated and somewhat arrogant culture that took GM to the brink in the first place. I mention this because it seems that Chairman Ed Whitacre and GM's board finally has figured this out.

Not that I'm gloating mind you. You hate to see anybody of Henderson's caliber unceremoniously dumped. But the appointment was doomed from the beginning if what GM is after is true operational and cultural change.

Now the drama continues. Who will be Henderson's successor? Had I written this column immediately after the announcement was made, I would have predicted one of two people -- either Whitacre himself, known from his AT&T (T) days as being a hands-on kind of leader, or Bob Lutz, the golden boy of the automotive design world. Now, after seeing the next round of changes in GM over the last few days, I believe it comes down to Lutz as the heir apparent.

For one thing, while Mark Reuss was appointed to head the GM North American business, the more telling young executive appointment was Susan Docherty, who has now taken the top sales and marketing position. This last move essentially puts in place Lutz's successor and frees him up to take on new responsibilities. Of course, GM has stated that Lutz's role as vice chairman is as a mentor for the newer executives and as an adviser to Whitacre to "learn the automobile industry."

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