A look back at the Wagoner legacy

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Rick Wagoner's forced departure from General Motors five years ago this week took some getting used to. He had been at or near the pinnacle of power at GM for 17 years. For eight years he was the company's CEO.

Then, suddenly, it was over.

As the industry churned in crisis in 2008 and 2009, Wagoner came under intense pressure as he sought financial support for GM from the U.S. government in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.

The money came with a proviso: Wagoner had to go.

He was asked to resign in a now-famous one-on-one with Steven Rattner, the New York financier who headed Barack Obama's auto task force, on Friday, March 27, 2009, in Washington.

In his book Overhaul, Rattner wrote: "Rick and I faced each other uneasily at my conference table. He was impassive; I was nervous."

Word leaked out on Sunday, and the firing was announced on Monday. GM President Fritz Henderson replaced Wagoner, though only for eight months, as it turned out.

These days Wagoner is on the board of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. He has been a member of the boards of aluminum recycler Aleris International and its parent, Aleris Holding Co.

In 2010 he joined Bill Gates and Warren Buffett on the board of the Washington Post Co.

Last summer he was among the investors who delivered $1.7 million in seed money to the startup company Tred, which runs an online service in the Seattle area that allows shoppers to test drive vehicles without visiting a dealership.

But Wagoner has kept a low profile. He has written no books or op-ed pieces and has agreed to no interviews in the past five years.

Here, several Automotive News editors and reporters who covered Wagoner during his long career reflect on his place in automotive history -- as it looks today.

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