New soccer fan Steve Girsky finds model for underdog Opel
Girsky: Getting his kicks in Europe
Steve Girsky is an avid New York Jets fan. But it didn't take him long to catch the European soccer bug -- and, in the process, find some inspiration for GM's ailing European brand.
Girsky, General Motors vice chairman, has been spending much of his time in Europe since June, when he took over as interim GM Europe chief as GM tried to turn around its stumbling Opel brand. And when there's no NFL to focus on, a sports fan notices some other things.
Last week, during a conference call to discuss GM's third-quarter earnings, Girsky spoke passionately about Borussia Dortmund, a German soccer club that Opel has sponsored.
Opel has returned to European soccer sponsorships for the first time in about a decade as it seeks to revitalize the brand.
Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but Girsky says the team, which has gone from also-ran to formidable competitor in just a few years, is a kindred spirit with beleaguered Opel.
"They've hired a new coach who's very charismatic. He's a brand ambassador for Opel," Girsky said. "The team has turned themselves around from being near bankruptcy to being one of the best teams in Germany."
An equity analyst cut in: "So this is a metaphor for the brand? A football club that turned itself around?"
Girsky said: "It's uncanny how similar it is."
Then, in what Girsky hopes is another parallel to Opel's future, he added:
"By the way ... they beat Real Madrid last week."