Library Journal - Audio
In this frank business memoir, Whitacre explains his role as the Obama administration's 2009 appointee to conduct GM through governmental reorganization and operations on a loan of $49.5 billion. Whitacre was the chair of AT&T for 44 years, leading the company from its early days as a $9 billion Baby Bell to an international telecom giant with annual revenues of more than $120 billion. His no-nonsense, brutally frank comments focus on the failure of GM management, as described in stories of places in GM headquarters where ordinary employees were not allowed to ride in the same elevators as top management and where frontline employees were made to feel worthless. He also shares insider remarks about his tenure with AT&T, including overseeing AT&T's original iPhone contract, implementing cost-cutting measures, ending archaic executive privilege, and the less popular decision to move SW Bell from St. Louis to Texas. Whitacre acknowledges people who helped him throughout his career, as he describes his straight-shooting management style. The author's Texas drawl ably conveys his honest approach to management and business. VERDICT Recommended for anyone interested in business. ["A down-to-earth explanation of GM's resurrection and an interesting look at Whitacre's life," read the review of the Grand Central hc, LJ 12/12.—Ed.]—Dale Farris, Groves, TX
Edward Whitacre didn't want to come out of retirement, but the president's phone call convinced him. After the hospitable 2009 White House request, the former AT&T CEO agree to take over General Motors and help the embattled car company get back on track pronto. He succeeded and in American Turnaround, the retired-again executive explains why American companies need to do find their way to a resilient recovery.
An inspiring memoir from the laconic CEO and chairman of AT&T and GM. Whitacre spent 44 years at AT&T, starting as a student engineer in the early 1960s at what was then Southwestern Bell and eventually leading the company. His time there was rewarding, exciting, and beneficial for the company: he oversaw the original iPhone contract, implemented budget-saving, cost-cutting measures, and did away with executive privilege. He also made good but less popular decisions such as moving Southwestern Bell from St. Louis to his native Texas. After spending just two years getting accustomed to retirement, Whitacre was asked by the White House to take over the sinking GM. He agreed, intending to be quickly in and out, but instead ended up shepherding the company through the launch of the Volt and a highly successful IPO. The Obama administration approved of his success, and he finally stepped down, handing GM over to a new CEO. Whitacre characterizes himself as a “private man by nature,” but wrote the book to “thank and publicly acknowledge” the people who helped him throughout his career. In what is basically a vanity project, albeit a sweet one, Whitacre describes his philosophy, management style, and business principles, all of which are interesting, but not particularly novel. Agent: Joe Veltri, Gersh Agency. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
This straight-talking Texan and former CEO of two of America's best known corporations provides a candid, insider's view of how a committed business leader can make a difference. More importantly, his book offers a prescription for the kind of leadership that can turn America around and get the country moving again.
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
Ed is a strong leader with intelligence, a big heart, common sense and without fear. He is also an exceptional human being-always concerned about people. His mind is clear with a long-term vision and mission.
Carlos Slim Helú, Industrialist and Philanthropist
Among CEOs, Ed is one-of-a-kind. Not only did he successfully run AT&T and fix GM, but he is also a classic Texan complete with a straight-speaking manner and common touch that truly sets him apart. Here is his uniquely American story. Everyone who starts this book will finish it.
Roger Altman, Founder and Chairman, Evercore Partners; former Deputy Treasury Secretary
Very inspiring, down to earth leadership lessons and very consistent with our experience with Ed during his time at GM. He always respected our members and never blamed them for what he strongly viewed as poor management.
Bob King, UAW President
A CEO memoir worth reading.
Whitacre, former chairman and CEO of AT&T and General Motors, tells his story of building AT&T and then rescuing GM from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and overseeing its reorganization. Whitacre had been retired from AT&T for two years when President Obama's "car czar," Steve Rattner, asked him to become chairman of GM. In this easy read, Whitacre describes his management style of employee empowerment and accountability, yet he also admits that "companies are not democracies; you can't run management by consensus." Famous for his "walkarounds" in which he talked to employees, he stresses the importance of individuals and their access to management, advising, "People are the number one asset of any business." Whitacre further argues that GM emerged from bankruptcy in 16 months because of its employees. While good management helped, nothing management did "would have made a shred of difference if the men and women of GM had not been willing to put their shoulders to the wall and push." VERDICT A down-to-earth explanation of GM's resurrection and an interesting look at Whitacre's life.— Joanne Conrad, Geneseo, NY
A tough-talking Texan offers business truisms. Whitacre is a turnaround specialist who took AT&T from a $9 billion "Baby Bell" to a global giant with annual revenues of more than $120 billion; he later took the reins of General Motors and saw it through the tough process of federally mandated reorganization. "None of this is magic," he faux modestly avers. It does, however, have everything to do with good management, and by his account, good management is in exceedingly short supply. The truisms begin to mount as he proceeds: "People are the number one asset of any business"; "Good managers know that change is the only constant in business, so they actively manage their businesses--smartly, aggressively, and as humanely as possible"; "Life, when you really think about it, is basically just a series of key moments or turning points." Such things might seem self-evident and obvious, but when Whitacre serves up horror stories of corporate culture run amok, including places where ordinary employees weren't allowed to ride in the same elevators as top management and where those same ordinary employees were made to feel as if they were scarcely worth being seen, let alone being heard, then it becomes more obvious that common-sensical approaches have to be beaten into the heads of some of the privileged corporate elite. There's no sense of privilege in the author's pages, though it's obvious that he's made a vast amount of money. Instead, Whitacre provides a refreshing amount of sunshine and fresh air, with guardedness surrounding only the question of why he left GM, an event that still seems a touch mysterious. A keeper in a field of undercooked, underwritten books by CEOs.