Obama ousts GM chief

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DETROIT - General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner will step down immediately at the request of the White House, administration officials said yesterday. The news comes as President Obama prepares to unveil additional restructuring efforts designed to save the domestic auto industry.

The officials asked not to be identified because details of the restructuring plan have not yet been made public. Today Obama is to announce measures to restructure GM and Chrysler LLC in exchange for additional government loans. The companies have been living on $17.4 billion in government aid and have requested $21.6 billion more.

Wagoner's departure indicates that more management changes may be part of the deal, but it is still unclear who will be put in charge of GM. The automaker recently promoted Fritz Henderson, its former chief financial officer, to become president and chief operating officer. Many in the company have thought he would eventually succeed Wagoner.

Detroit-based GM issued a statement yesterday saying only that the company expects a decision by the administration soon but that "it would not be appropriate for us to speculate on the content of any announcement."

A person familiar with Chrysler's management said the company has been given no indication that the government will require any changes at the Auburn Hills, Mich., company, which has been led by former Home Depot chief Robert Nardelli since August 2007. The person also spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Wagoner, 56, has repeatedly said he felt it was better for GM if he led it through the crisis, but he has faced sharp criticism on Capitol Hill for what many lawmakers regard as years of missteps, mistakes and arrogance by the Big Three automakers.

Wagoner joined GM in 1977, serving in several capacities in the United States, Brazil and Europe. He became president and chief executive in 2000 and has served as chairman and chief executive since May 2003.

The Obama administration plans to give GM enough government aid to restructure over the next 60 days, while Chrysler will get up to $6 billion and 30 days to complete an alliance with Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

The two officials familiar with the plan said yesterday it will demand further sacrifices from the automakers and bankruptcy would still be possible if the automakers failed to restructure.

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