Robert O’Connell, former CFO of General Motors and CEO and chairman of General Motors Acceptance Corp., died May 8 in Boston. He was 76.
O’Connell joined GM in 1965. Before becoming CFO, he was vice president of the product planning group.
As described in the book Comeback: The Fall & Rise of the American Automobile Industry, O’Connell was a “financial wizard” and “a mountainous man with an acid wit, an intimidating manner, and prodigious appetite for work and food.”
After the automaker suffered a staggering $6.4 billion combined loss in 1990 and 1991, O’Connell was demoted to running GMAC.
At the helm of GMAC, O’Connell brought stability back to the finance subsidiary and navigated it through rocky shoals, including a scandal in which a New York dealer was accused of defrauding the company of $436 million.
When O’Connell retired from the company in 1994, then-CEO Jack Smith said, “Bob O’Connell … deserves special thanks for running GMAC during an extremely difficult and challenging period.”