- Associated Press - Thursday, August 12, 2010

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Co. CEO Ed Whitacre said Thursday he’s stepping down Sept. 1.

Mr. Whitacre, 68, will be replaced by GM board member Daniel Akerson, the managing director and head of global buyout for the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm.

Mr. Akerson, 61, will be GM’s fourth CEO in 18 months when he takes over the job.

Mr. Whitacre was named GM’s chairman in July 2009 when GM emerged from bankruptcy protection. After he ousted CEO Fritz Henderson, Mr. Whitacre was named interim CEO in December and became permanent CEO in January.

Mr. Whitacre, the former head of AT&T, often said in a folksy Texas drawl that he knew little about cars. But he shook up the company with a number of managerial changes, including luring Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell from Microsoft Corp. He also combined sales and marketing responsibilities and consolidated control of GM’s core North American market under one executive.

Mr. Whitacre said the board was aware of his plans the day he accepted the CEO job, and he predicted a smooth transition.

“I believe we’ve accomplished what we set out to do,” Mr. Whitacre said.

Mr. Akerson has been involved in GM’s transition every step of the way, Mr. Whitacre said. “He’s absolutely the right choice.”

Mr. Akerson has served on GM’s board since July 2009 and has worked for the Carlyle Group since 2003.

Like Mr. Whitacre, Mr. Akerson has a background in telecommunications. He worked in top executive positions at MCI Communications in the 1980s and ‘90s. He also served as chairman and CEO of XO Communications Inc., where he oversaw a major restructuring, and chairman and CEO of Nextel Communications Inc., where he shifted the company from a regional walkie-talkie maker to a digital wireless provider.

Mr. Akerson said he does not expect to make big managerial changes when he takes over for Mr. Whitacre in just under three weeks.

He said he knows GM’s management well and that Mr. Whitacre has made significant changes in his year at the helm. Those changes have pointed GM in the right direction.

GM reported its second straight quarterly profit on Thursday.