Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Ed Whitacre Jr. says he was not expecting General Motors Corp
. to select him to help turn around the auto giant.

But that is precisely the role he will play if GM’s Chapter 11 reorganization plan is approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Interim GM Chairman Kent Kresa says the Detroit-based automaker has tapped Whitacre, former chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc
., to lead the company once it exits bankruptcy.

Was Whitacre expecting that he would be the next chairman of GM?

“No,” he tells the San Antonio Business Journal in an exclusive interview.

But is he ready to roll up his sleeves?

“This is a chance for me to do some public service that is important for the country and for the company,” Whitacre explains. “I hope I can help get this (company) where we want it to go.”

On June 1, GM announced that it had filed voluntary petitions for relief under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The company’s reorganization plan includes selling substantially all of its global assets to a new GM. That sale is subject to the approval of the court.

Kresa will continue to serve as interim chairman until GM’s reorganization plan is approved and Whitacre takes over the helm.

“The appointment of Ed Whitacre as chairman represents a very auspicious beginning for the new GM,” Kresa said in a press statement.

“We look forward,” he adds, ‘to working with him to complete the reinvention of GM and maximize the enormous potential of this new enterprise.”

Whitacre, 67, was chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc. and its predecessor companies from 1990 to 2007. It was under his watch that what was then Southwestern Bell relocated its headquarters from St. Louis to San Antonio.

Since then, Whitacre has taken a vested interest in the Alamo City. In addition to the millions of dollars contributed by the company in the San Antonio community, Whitacre has been publicly recognized for his personal contributions to the city.

Last year, San Antonio witnessed the opening of the Museo Alameda with the help of corporate partners Ford Motor Co
. and AT&T. Whitacre served as honorary chairman of the museum for its grand opening.

Because of those deep South Texas roots, and despite of his new role, Whitacre says he will not leave San Antonio for Detroit.

“This is my city,” says Whitacre about San Antonio. “I’m not moving.”

That said, Whitacre does hope to help restore faith in an historic company.

“We just want to help this icon,” he says.