GM chief financial officer resigns unexpectedly

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors‘ finance chief is leaving after being passed over for chief executive officer.

Chris Liddell, who guided the company to its first profitable year since 2004 and led its successful public stock offering, will step down April 1 after just 15 months at GM. He’ll be replaced by Treasurer Dan Ammann, a former Wall Street banker, the company announced Thursday.

Mr. Liddell, the former CFO of Microsoft Corp., once was considered a candidate to succeed Chief Executive Ed Whitacre, but GM’s board instead picked current Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson when Mr. Whitacre left last August.

During a hastily arranged conference call with reporters, Mr. Liddell said he had no job lined up, but he doesn’t want to be a chief financial officer any longer. He said he achieved his goals of pulling off GM’s IPO, fixing its accounting problems and getting the company back on sound financial footing.

Mr. Ackerson’s appointment as CEO meant that Mr. Liddell, 52, could wait years before getting the job.

The move is another in a series of management changes that started soon after GM emerged from bankruptcy protection in July 2009. The company has had four CEOs in less than two years, and it recently changed its top executives in sales, marketing, product development and engineering.

Shares of GM fell 85 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $31.40 in afternoon trading Thursday, below the November initial public offering price of $33.

Itay Michaeli, auto analyst with Citi Investment Research, blamed most of Thursday’s stock drop on the broader market decline but said Mr. Liddell’s departure would have an impact.

“To see a major management change just when you thought there would be no more management changes is going to rattle things a little bit,” he said.

In 2009, Mr. Liddell said he was leaving Microsoft with an eye on taking a higher position, and Mr. Whitacre even told reporters that Mr. Liddell would be a candidate to replace him. Mr. Akerson’s getting the job led to speculation that Mr. Liddell was unhappy about being passed over.

Mr. Liddell has held the CFO job at three companies: GM, Microsoft and International Paper.

He said he has not looked for another job while at GM, but he indicated Thursday that a CEO post might be in the offing.

“I have a number of interesting ideas which I have in the back of my mind, but none of them have CFO on it,” he said during the conference call.

Under Mr. Liddell, GM posted four straight profitable quarters and began to repair accounting troubles that had plagued it for years. He joined the company in January 2010 with a reputation as a problem solver.

GM’s stock stayed above the IPO price until late February, when the company posted fourth-quarter earnings that were below the three previous quarters and unrest in the Middle East drove up oil prices.

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