The board of General Motors Co
GM has tapped executive search firm Spencer Stuart to find a new chief executive that will include consideration of candidates from outside the auto industry, said the person who asked not to be named because the hiring process is private.
New York-based Spencer Stuart also handled the search for GM Chairman Ed Whitacre, who took over as the automaker's acting chief executive last week after the board broke with former CEO Fritz Henderson.
A spokesman for the recruiting company could not be immediately reached for comment. GM had no comment.
Whitacre, 68, has moved quickly to put his own stamp on GM's management team and to drive home a message with staff that the automaker must move faster to win back customers, pay back taxpayers and return to profitability.
Corporate search executives and management experts expect GM to stay within the ranks of the U.S. executive class for a new CEO, but say it will face challenges because of a government-imposed limit on executive pay and the strong presence of Whitacre.
A former AT&T chief executive, Whitacre has also pushed GM's sales organization to bring down its industry-leading spending on incentives even as the automaker struggles to defend its share of the U.S. market, executives say.
He's pretty clear that he wants results, Susan Docherty, GM's recently appointed head of U.S. sales and marketing, told reporters on Tuesday. If he sees things that he thinks are off track, he's going to hold me and the team accountable.
Henderson, 51, had taken over as GM CEO in March at the time that his predecessor, Rick Wagoner, was dismissed by the Obama administration as it prepared to fund GM's restructuring in bankruptcy.
GM emerged from a government-funded bankruptcy in July under the nearly 61 percent ownership of the U.S. Treasury, after taking over $50 billion in government aid.
Corporate talent experts said a new CEO of GM would have to be able to work beside a strong chairman in the form of Whitacre.
Ed has been acting more like a CEO than he has chairman and as a result of that, somebody coming into this role is going to have a very high opinion, high velocity, high visibility chairman who has already shown that he is the leader of the board and is making pretty quick decisions, said Brian Sullivan, CEO of executive search firm CTPartners.
What you do need almost is more of a chief operating officer than a chief executive officer because this certainly looks to be Ed's show, but he needs someone to implement the day-to-day, Sullivan said.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management, said he also expected that a new CEO would have a muted role at GM under Whitacre after the unexpectedly swift move by the board to break with Henderson.
The ego issues here are very considerable, he said.
Spencer Stuart's selection to head efforts to recruit a new CEO for GM was reported first by the Wall Street Journal.
(Reporting by David Bailey and Bernie Woodall; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)