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Why Whitacre Is Leaving GM

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- In a surprise announcement, General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre said he will step down Sept. 1 and turn the job over to Don Akerson, a GM board member since July 2009.

Whitacre will stay on as chairman until the end of the year, when Akerson will take over that job.

 Whitacre
GM CEO Ed Whitacre steps down

"It was my public duty to help return this company to greatness and I didn't want to stay beyond that," said Whitacre at the conclusion of the GM earnings conference call. "We've positioned the company for success and things look good. There's a foundation in place, a good foundation. So I see no reason to delay."

Akerson, 61, has served on the GM board since July 2009. He has been a managing director at the Carlyle Group. H was also chairman and CEO of XO Communications and Nextel Communications and he was chairman and CEO of General Instrument Corp.

"Ed and I share a vision, a common vision for the company, where it is today and where we hope to take it into the future," Akerson said. Asked whether he plans management changes, he said that "Ed has made significant changes in his tenure as CEO. I think this is a broad and deep bench. The newer level of management, as I've been able to perceive, is quite good.

"At this stage, the biggest management transition is me," he added. "I have to get my feet on the ground."

Akerson will continue a pattern, now in place at Ford (F - Get Report) as well as GM, of bringing in top executives from outside the industry. Ford CEO Alan Mulally spent more than three decades at Boeing (BA).

The transition comes at the start of GM's transition to a public company. The company is widely expected to file a registration for an initial public offering this month -- possibly Friday -- but it wouldn't answer any questions relating to the IPO.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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