Originally published: Jan. 13, 1992DETROIT -- General Motors directors finished their January board meeting last week in time to get a chauffeured tour of the North American International Auto Show.
Told to keep their mouths shut and virtually cocooned by GM public relations officials, the board members were shuttled around the show in electric golf carts that had typed nametags pasted to the seats.
Driving the carts and serving as tour guides were some of GM's top executives: Ronald Haas, vice president in charge of quality and reliability; Charles Jordan, vice president in charge of the design staff; Donald Runkle, vice president of the advanced engineering staff; Lynn Myers, general director of product planning and economics, and Roy Roberts, manufacturing manager of the Flint Automotive Division of the Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Group.
President Lloyd Reuss and other top executives who are members of the board went along for the ride.
Board members met at the GM corporate exhibit and were shown around before they hopped into the carts to see the rest of the show.
Reporters attempted to get board members' opinions about the recent cutback announcement by Chairman Robert Stempel and about the board's support of the GM management team. But the scribes were largely rebuffed by public relations people, who said the board was on a tight schedule and didn't have time to talk.
Still, some board members cracked under pressure.
The Rev. Leon Sullivan, pastor emeritus of Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia, was asked whether he believes the cutbacks announced by Stempel were enough to bring the company back to prosperity.
"Oh, I think we're on target to match the needs of the times," Sullivan said. "The plan is a workable one."
The management team did get some endorsements, although they weren't necessarily ringing with praise.
"As a fundamental principle, the chairman of the board speaks for the board," said Marvin Goldberger, director of The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. Goldberger said he had an opinion about the cuts, but declined to give it.
Ann McLaughlin, former labor secretary and now a visiting fellow at The Urban Institute in Washington, said the board is "supportive of Stempel and the moves he has made at GM. It's just gossip about Stempel and Reuss being under fire."
Sullivan said the board was "very encouraged and very pleased with the leadership shown so far by Mr. Stempel."
John Smale, chairman of the executive committee of Procter & Gamble Co., said Stempel was speaking for the board when he held the Dec. 18 news conference to announce GM's retrenchment. "He is our representative and speaks for us."
Before attending the show, the directors declared a dividend of $0.095053 per share on GM's newly issued Series B 9 1/8 percent depositary shares. The dividend is payable Feb. 1 to holders of record Jan. 16.
The initial dividend on the depositary shares is prorated to cover the period from the Dec. 17 issue date through Dec. 31. Depositary share dividends have been fixed at $2.28125 per share per year. Future payments will be made quarterly beginning in May 1992.