General Motors is beginning to look like a telecommunications company -- at least at the top -- as chief executive Ed Whitacre, the man who created AT&T by piecing together a bunch of Baby Bells, announced his resignation Thursday. The new GM chief will be Daniel Akerson, a former Nextel CEO with long service in the telecommunications industry.
Akerson has been a GM board member for just over a year. Whitacre shaped up foundering GM, which reported its second straight profitable quarter Thursday and prepared to move ahead with plans to float an IPO. Akerson, who recently has been serving as a managing director at private equity firm Carlyle Group, also served as chairman of troubled XO Communications.
Often hailed for his genius in reassembling pieces of the old AT&T, Whitacre did much reassembling at GM after he took the top post at the auto manufacturer a little over a year ago. GM's operating profit, announced Thursday, was $1.6 billion in its North American operations -- up from a $3.4 billion loss in the last three months of 2009.
"It was my plan all along to help return this company to greatness and that I didn't want to stay a day behind that," Whitacre said, according to media reports. "The transition will be very smooth."
Whitacre actually took over the top spot at GM in January, making the turnaround even more remarkable because of the short timeframe between GM's near demise and its current return to profitability.