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Rattner: Chrysler’s survival depended on dumping Cerberus management

by Bill Cawthon on

Steve Rattner, former head of the Obama Administration’s Auto Task Force, said replacing the management team installed by Cerberus Capital Mangement was one of the task force’s objectives in restructuring Chrysler.

Rattner, who was speaking at Council on Foreign Relations-sponsored forum about the global auto industry, told the audience, “We wanted to have a completely fresh management team. You can’t come to any conclusion that management is not a huge ingredient, a huge determinant of success.”

In fact, Rattner also said the task force’s motivation for supporting the Chrysler-Fiat alliance “was frankly to get new management and to get what we thought was one of two or three best management teams in the world.”

Cerberus’ management team consisted of Robert Nardelli, ex-CEO of Home depot, former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda and Jim Press, former CEO of Toyota’s U.S. operation. Nardelli left Chrysler when the new company emerged from bankruptcy. He then took a consulting assignment with Cerberus. LaSorda retired from Chrysler on May 1, 2009 and took a job advising Penske Group on the planned purchase of Saturn from GM. Press is due to leave Chrysler at the end of this month.

Bruce Nussbaum, writing in BusinessWeek’s August 2007 edition, said, “Picking Robert Nardelli to save Chrysler is the most bone-headed idea of 2007.”

Apparently the President’s Auto Task Force agreed.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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