CEO Barra leans on small circle of GM veterans

Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:37pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - In the midst of General Motors Co's (GM.N: Quote) biggest crisis since bankruptcy, new Chief Executive Mary Barra is turning to an inner circle dominated by company "lifers," believing the team is up to handling a massive recall and reinvigorating the company without much outside help, former and current GM executives say.

Barra's every move is being dissected in the wake of the recall of 2.6 million cars for an ignition switch defect linked to at least 13 deaths.

One question is whether the "New GM" that emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 is a different company from the old one.

Barra's inner circle includes one relative newcomer, and GM has hired three outside consultants for help with the switch crisis, but most of her core team, like Barra, are long-time GM veterans.

Products chief Mark Reuss may be her closest ally, even though the two vied to become CEO, according to a consensus of eight current and former executives, who asked not to be identified. He's a "car guy" and she's a "car gal," an accolade in Detroit for true driving enthusiasts.

The second close advisor is chief counsel Michael Millikin, who has risen in influence as he has helped guide the company's guarded response to the ignition switch defect. He is co-leading the internal probe of the switch.

GM declined to comment on Barra's closest team.

Barra has said she meets with her team daily by phone or in person. She also makes nearly daily calls to non-executive Chairman Tim Solso, the 67-year-old former Cummins (CMI.N: Quote) CEO, who was chosen by the board as chair at the same time Barra was named CEO, in order to mentor her. Solso is not part of the core team running the company's day-to-day operations, though.   Continued...

General Motors CEO Mary Barra appears onstage during a launch event for new Chevrolet cars before the New York Auto Show in New York April 15, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri