Battery boss boots Nardelli out of Chrysler
General Electric (GE) sure knows how to produce leaders. Robert Nardelli, who lost out to Jeff Immelt to take over GE when Jack Welch left, found a new home at Home Depot (HD). But he ran that into a ditch and got booted out after bulking up on an unprofitable wholesale division while firing the people in the stores who knew how to help customers. So Nardelli then went on from Home Depot to take over Chrysler -- which he ran right into Chapter 11.
And once Chrysler emerges from that, wouldn't its new owners pick a turnaround expert to run the place, or at least someone who knows something about cars? No -- of course not. Instead, Chyrsler's new boss will be an expert on running a battery company. More specifically, former Borden Chemical and Duracell chairman C. Robert Kidder will become chairman of the new Chrysler once it acquires old Chrysler's assets and joins with Fiat.To be fair, Kidder has a wonderfully old school name. But does that necessarily qualify him to revive a third-rate U.S. automobile manufacturer? Based on his biography, it sounds like he made his bones rising through the ranks at Duracell. I have no idea how that qualifies him to run Chrysler. But then again, I did not understand why Nardelli was a good person to run Chrysler -- particularly after he ran Home Depot into the ground.
Given that Chrysler's workers will probably end up owning 55 percent of the company, this is the worst news for them. But just maybe, investors at Cerberus Capital Management -- which likely lost its Chrysler investment --will smarten up and give Nardelli a lengthy break before he busts up any of its other businesses.
Peter Cohan is president of Peter S. Cohan & Associates. He also teaches management at Babson College. His eighth book isYou Can't Order Change: Lessons from Jim McNerney's Turnaround at Boeing. He owns GE shares and has no financial interest in the other securities mentioned.