Will Wagoner have to move on?

Sen. Christopher Dodd's suggestion on national TV over the weekend that General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner ought to "move on" outraged a lot of people.

Whether or not they think Wagoner has been a great CEO, industry insiders resent having a U.S. Senator -- especially one who has made his own share of costly blunders -- talking so cavalierly about dismissing Wagoner.

But Dodd certainly wasn't the first to raise the issue.

And let's face it, a changing of the guard is frequently part of a reorganization. It's almost expected that a CEO who takes a company into Chapter 11 won't be the same one who leads the reorganized company after it emerges.

A lot of people forget that in 1979, when Chrysler Corp. successfully campaigned for up to $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees, the new management team headed by Lee Iacocca was one of the selling points.

Iacocca joined Chrysler as President and Chief Operating Office on Nov. 2, 1978. But it was CEO John Riccardo who originally went to Washington with a Chrysler survival plan for $1.2 billion in loan guarantees that was rejected by Treasury Secretary G. William Miller.

When Riccardo took early retirement in September 1979, Iacocca became chairman, CEO and point man in Washington.

Iacocca was a bona fide car guy -- not just another finance man like Riccardo and his predecessor, Lynn Townsend, who both migrated to Chrysler from its auditor, Touche, Ross, Bailey & Smart.

So as the new honcho -- and with a cadre of trusted lieutenants he plucked from Ford Motor Co. and elsewhere -- Iacocca was able to sell the salient points of a Chrysler reorganization to Congress and the Carter administration:

1. Equality of sacrifice by Chrysler's stakeholders

2. A budding product portfolio built around the fuel-efficient, front-drive K cars

3. A detailed five-year business plan known internally as the Green Book

4. A focus on improving Chrysler's abominable vehicle quality

5. The new management team

It worked then.

It just might work again.

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